Stand-off at Standing Rock Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota © Hossein Fatemi

Since April 2016, thousands of native Americans and their supporters have been converging on a site in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline which is supposed to bring fracked crude oil from North Dakota to refineries in Illinois.


The protesters, led by members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, established the Sacred Stone Camp to show their opposition to the pipeline which, they say, runs across sacred land and burial grounds and could lead to pollution of their water sources.


With larger numbers gathering on weekends, the Camp has become the biggest gathering of North American indigenous peoples for over 100 years. Police and private security guards deployed to contain the protests have ended in arrests, injuries and accusations of police violence.


In addition to the environmental issues raised by campaigners against the pipeline the protests also focus attention on the treatment of native Americans in general and questions about land and resource distribution.


Some of the Standing Rock campaigners have pointed to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by the so-called “Bundy Gang”, a group of cattle ranchers who engaged in a 41 day armed standoff with law enforcement over disputed grazing rights on federal land.


All members of the group were acquitted and walked free while over 150 unarmed protesters at Standing Rock have been arrested during largely peaceful protests.


Neither Donald Trump nor Hilary Clinton, the two presidential hopefuls in the 8 November election, have taken a public stand on the issue and with fracking continuing to spread and grow, making America self-sufficient in crude oil, the issue of land use by oil companies and the transportation of crude will remain a contentious point.


Hossein Fatemi went to the Standing Rock Sacred Stone Camp and met some of the thousands of protesters who have vowed to stand their ground to the bitter end.

All images © Hossein Fatemi / Panos Pictures
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