This photograph was taken by Tlingit/Cherokee artist Zoë Marieh Urness. Urness participated in the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline—an oil pipeline which was to be installed under several bodies of water, endangering the drinking water supply on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Standing Rock is home to several bands of Lakota and Dakota Sioux, and consists of over 3,500 square miles spanning several counties in North and South Dakota.
The protests began in April of 2016 with members of the Standing Rock Sioux, but subsequently became a gathering of many tribal nations and non-tribal people from across the country, including U.S. military veterans. Protesters formed a camp that was occupied for months. In sub-freezing temperatures, protesters were repelled with water cannons, tear gas grenades, tasers, and other weapons. Hundreds of people were arrested in the course of the protests.
This picture was taken on December 5, 2016. Hundreds of U.S. military veterans had arrived that day to encircle and protect the protesters. Urness, who was photographing the unfolding scene, saw a person wearing a Tlingit button blanket—regalia from her own ethnic group—and moved quickly to capture this image. The photograph was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
This photograph is part of the Museum’s growing collection of works by contemporary Native American artists. It was acquired with funds from a bequest by the estate of Dr. Clyde Oyster.