My mother and father were the first to alert me to what was going on in the early days of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest, but it wasn't until I witnessed a march for Standing Rock at Indian Market that I realized it was more than a protest, it was a movement. I started to follow along via social media and watched in shock as the tactics against the protestors became increasingly brutal and violent. I had been praying for the water protectors and sharing the stories coming from the camps; then the night the water cannons went off, I had a knee jerk reaction- it was time for me to go. I didn’t go as a photographer, I went as a person who wanted to help. I loaded up in a jeep with two other native artists/advocates, then off we went into the early winter cold. The day we arrived, thousands of US Veterans showed up in support of the protestors. It was early December and the temperature was dropping, a blizzard was hitting, we were under the most extreme conditions, but the camp was unified and spirits were flying high. I couldn’t believe how many groups were there; I heard languages from all over the world and saw people of all colors of the rainbow. It was so profound to experience something that transcended race or creed; this was about Earth and every living thing that depends on it for clean water.
I took this image at the front lines of the march to stop DAPL from crossing the Missouri river; I was trying to get a shot of the man in the red and black button blanket when the person in the gas mask emerged through the crowd- a symbol of what is to come if we don't take care of our environment. That he is identityless coincides with a strong belief that in these sorts of movements, you cover your face because you do it for the cause, not for recognition. The philosophy is that you are a unit, not an individual- and there could not be a better example of that ideal than Standing Rock.