Why the Dakota Access Pipeline protests mean more than just ‘Water is life’

This article originally appeared on the CUIdependent.com


On a drive through the plains on Oct. 20, time passed by the reflective center division markers, the darkness only broken with the cycling traffic lights and blinking liquor store signs. The bullet hole-riddled sign that reads “Entering Standing Rock Indian Reservation” was the only marker of crossing a border into a sovereign nation.

When the morning sky is between black and pink, Mandan’s only life stirs in Ohm’s Café, 45 miles of center division markers north of Standing Rock in North Dakota. Before returning to their fields only miles from the protest camps, farmers sit and chew on toothpicks between sips of coffee.

Many farmers had gripes with the pipeline, seeing it as a threat to their environment as well. Yet a general distaste for the “professional protesters” that have opposed the pipeline’s construction for months pervaded the cafe. The farmers wished not to be named out of fears of violent backlash from protesters. One said his inbox was flooded with threats and other unconfirmed confrontations when he spoke out against the movement.

Conversations with farmers, gas station cashiers and bar tenders had a protest vernacular. “Stay safe” and recommendations, especially for journalists, to avoid the camps ended most conversations and interviews.

The daily text emergency alerts of road blockades and reports of journalists being violently evicted from the campsbuilt an uneasy tension around the camp. The cautionary tales from Bismarck locals of the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee led by the American Indian Movement added to that air.

As the sun rises on the Lakota Sioux Nation of Standing Rock, trailers, the rusting carcasses of cars and dive bars appear from the omnipresent blackness of the prairie night. A landscape of golden buttes is littered with signs of poverty.

Splintered by broken treaties, Standing Rock is a crippled remnant of the Great Sioux Nation. Declared by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, the Sioux confederacy was promised by the United States government sovereignty over land extending across their sacred Black Hills and much of the northern plains.

On land legally entrusted to the Sioux, indigenous people and activists from across the continent gathered to protest the pipeline they alleged would threaten Standing Rock’s water, destroy their burial grounds and disrupt the sacred sites of their ancestors.

When the decision to deny the Dakota Access company from building the pipeline came from the U.S. government on Dec. 4, a rare victory was added to the long history of the subjugation of Native people. The current conflict continues as protesters continue to show up at Standing Rock, however. A federal court in February could reverse the current decision and allow the Dakota Access company to build the pipeline.

“There is history and his-story,” a man who wished to be identified as Chief David said in October while overlooking the Cannonball River from the Oceti Sakowin camp. To him and other protesters, the narrative of Native Americans has been cast away in national consciousness for the stories of the cowboys, Disney movies and Halloween costumes.

Chief David, who came from Las Vegas, Nevada, to be a part of the protests in late October, looks down over the Cannonball River. (Jackson Barnett/CU Independent)

For the Lakota and Sioux people, the small town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota is less often remembered for the 1973 incident the farmers described. Instead, Wound Knee carries the memories of over 150 killed Ogallala Sioux, many of them women and children shot in the back as they fled Gen. George Custer’s 7th Cavalry of U.S. soldiers in the 1890 Massacre, protestors from Standing Rock and Pine Ridge said.

In modern day Wounded Knee, a small town of less than 400 people, remnant scars from the atrocities of U.S. settlers still prevent opportunity for the Ogalala Sioux.

On one side of South Dakota Highway 44, the earth erodes into the white valleys of the Badlands. On the other, the prairie is scattered with unimaginable poverty. Unemployment here is closer to the employment rate of surrounding South Dakota, where an estimated 70 percent of people in Pine Ridge are jobless and poverty is more rampant than anywhere else in the U.S. as of 2010.

Shannon County (recently renamed Ogalala Lakota County) in South Dakota has the highest poverty rate in the U.S., located entirely in Pine Ridge.

The massacre of Wounded Knee ended ongoing conflicts between the Sioux and the U.S. government, skirmishes that began with the quest for riches and westward expansion into Indian reservations. A hunger for gold started when Custer led troops of soldiers and miners into the sacred Black Hills in 1874. Their trespassing on native land an outright infringement of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, which was renegotiated in 1868.

These broken treaties joined the list of other promises dishonored by the U.S. government, leaving cause for skepticism with the Army Corps denied the Dakota Access company the ability to build in the disputed area.

The warriors who fought in the Indian-American Wars beginning in the early 1600s were deemed by the foreign settlers as savages, beasts of inhumanity. They were not seen as the people native to the land defending their way of life against an invading force.

Their descendants are now referred to as “professional protesters” and “lazies,” as one bartender put it, criticizing the Standing Rock Sioux for the abysmal conditions of the reservation they were forced onto.

A mother breast feeds her child in the camp, calling the protest camp the “intentional community” she was looking for her family, taken on Oct. 22. (Jackson Barnett/CU Independent)

The Dakota Access Pipeline protests began as a fight for the right to clean water. For some it became the “intentional community” wandering families were searching for. And for many indigenous people, it became a new stand for the rights that they had been denied through years of poverty, oppression and historic racism.

How to build a teepee at DAPL

This article originally appeared on the CUIndependent.com: 


David fumbled the sappy, 14-foot wooden poll. Shadows of distant rolling hills stretched toward his camp across the Cannonball river as the red sun descended into the horizon. Soon the temperate late-October day would slip into bitter night.

A month before I met David, he, his young son and wife traded the winking, one-headlamp minivans of the Standing Rock reservation for the bareback horsemen of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp. With winter approaching, he struggled to build the home that had sheltered his ancestors for centuries, and would hopefully shelter his family for the coming months: a teepee.

Kaslin and his friend’s shadows dance as Jesse and Sage tie teepee poles together. (Jackson Barnett)

Intended to transport crude oil 1,172 miles from North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks oil fields to southern Illinois, the Dakota Access pipeline faces its most critical opposition from protesters encamped at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers. Earth Justice, the environmental law group representing the tribe, alleges the pipeline “threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious and cultural significance.” While arguments are echoed in court, people from across the country encamped themselves on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the water source of downstream Standing Rock.

David’s son, Kaslin, only wanted to ride his bike. He would do a trick, run to me, flop on the ground and wrap himself around my leg as I photographed his father. David needed Kaslin to be distracted while he, his neighbor, Sage and a fellow Sioux, Jesse, struggled to align the 15 wooden teepee poles. They never could build past five or six poles at a time.

Kaslin rides his bike while his friend sits on a teepee pole eating raw ramen noodles at the protest camp. (Jackson Barnett)

As they re-built for the fourth time, an old minivan from the reservation pulled up, its headlamps turning on to replace the disappearing sun. The driver sat in the car watching until his wife, Wilma, in the passenger seat pushed him out.

“Go help those boys,” Wilma said. He lumbered out of the van on feeble legs.

The minivan driver, joined by fellow Sioux elders Rick and Manaja, joked about how many teepees they had already set up that day.

“Too many to count,” Manaja said.

Native history, religion and language — the cornerstone of their identity — has been passed down from generation to generation by elders. Without written language, elders replaced texts as the repositories of tradition.

David, Sage and Jesse were slower to turn their lack of knowledge into laughter around the elders. Kaslin and his friend briefly stopped roughhousing. Instead, rummaging through a bag of junk food, each unwrapped a packet of yellow ramen, gleefully cracking their teeth against the hard, uncooked noodles.

Kaslin’s friend bites into a raw ramen packet as David and Sage build a teepee in the background. (Jackson Barnett)

Manaja dropped to one knee and re-wrapped the rope around three of the poles. Rick hoisted the cluster with David and Sage, each pulling a pole apart to form the base.

I approached by asking the driver his name. “Kidder,” he mumbled. Bernard James “BJ” Kidder was the name given to him by a priest, a name he shares with Saint Bernard’s Catholic mission school in Standing Rock. The school he had to walk home from through the North Dakota winter, his pants sticky with his urine from beatings by the priests.

“Kill the Indian in him, but save the man,” was the founding principle of mission schools like Saint Bernard’s.

BJ watched Rick and Manaja tie the last loop of rope around the teepee poles.

After a few hours of struggling, David, Sage and Jesse finish the frame of David’s teepee at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp. (Jackson Barnett)


Wilma motioned me over to her van.

Natives believe actions ripple seven generations into the future. Wilma, BJ, Rick and Manaja are, in Wilma’s hopeful words, the last generation to face the elders’ struggles from the past.

Kaslin throws a metal dowel like a spear while roughhousing with a friend at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp. (Jackson Barnett)

The new generation, that’s learning to build teepees, has found a home in the protest camp. Living in opposition to the pipeline has also meant living in a rare immersion of tradition. In camp, teepees replace the decrepit trailer homes on the reservation and become a chance for elders to pass down the culture they have kept through the trails of their past. More than an environmental stand, the camp has been a place for a renewed movement for Native rights.

BJ drove the final stake of David’s new home into the dark earth.


One of my Favorite Concerts

RJD2 was the best. It was populated with the fun loving people that didn't bother me about my camera, my business card, or anything for that matter. They just were there to dance. Arriving tired and late from a long shift at work, the concert unfolded into a love fest of all types lifting up my tired spirits. Friendship, brotherhood and sisterhood all were present in the dudes who made the "oh shit this is my favorite song" face all night, in the girls who spent a considerable amount of time with their heads under each other's skirts, and in all of the dance circles centered around the worst/best dance moves. The air carried both love and the sound waves of RJD2s music. One concert goer, who quickly became a friend remarked I was very "gonzo" in my photography by becoming so apart of the crowd as I photographed them. 

The total immersion in sound, space and populous seemed to make for a happy evening and some happy images.  But maybe they are not two separate, happiness and happy images. Photography for me is not something that is turned on with the flick of the camera's on switch, it is a perspective on the world. When that perspective originates from happiness, my lens is more clear. In fact a recent study shows an increase in creativity while in a state of happiness  (http://www.aliceboyes.com/creativity/). Pulsing the loving energy of a great concert through the strings that connect the lens to the heart only seem to make images that much better. 


One year ago I was in Morocco. One year ago I was riding camels, eating tagine and completely lost in the souks. Morocco has an incredible physical distance or cultural distance ratio, meaning that while it is only a 1 hour ferry ride away from Spain it is really a world away. Yes there are high rise hotels and all the modern trappings of the west but you still can find your self completely surrounded by it's magical old world feel. Those impossibly narrow alley ways that travelers dream of, the impressively aggressive touts, and the food. Ohh the olive oil drenched wonders, paired with sweet mint tea was a must three times a day. 

One particular village that will for ever be with me is Chefchauan. This city painted blue was a gem. Beautiful hikes, friendly people and the type of authenticity that people will blabber on about much to the eye rolling of their domestic friends. When I was leaving this city for Tangier, I saw this old man carrying a 50 kilo bag of sand. Staggering up the steep streets in slippers he wandered his way through the allies for twenty minuets to deliver his package. On his journey I snapped this photograph of him, which is for sale in the print store. 

Denver Post

Last weekend I was given the incredible opportunity to photograph the Anders Osborn show for the Denver Post's Hey Reverb section. A new genre of music brought new challenges, such as having up to 8 people on a stage to photograph, but also brought new opportunity. Unlike with DJ shows I was able to work more wide angle photographs. Trying to capture a scene on stage versus just a solo performance was a goal that I set out to do over the night. 

The audience was an eclectic mix of blues lovers of all ages. While I was threatened to be punched in the face for the first (and not the last time) I also was hit on my more cougars than ever before. I guys being the only under 21 in the club has its benefits. 

Check out a great write up and along with my photographs at: http://www.heyreverb.com/blog/2016/04/11/anderson-osborne/115967/

The Kiss

I took a photo I am very happy with. It is such a great feeling looking through my camera and being happy with an image that I took. Its grainy, its under exposed, and there are distracting out of focus elements. But all of that doesn't matter because this photo captures two people sharing a pure moment. 

Fan photos-17.jpg


Today I can with in inches of taking home a few boxes full of film processing gear. Limited by only having my two feet and a bus pass for transport carrying the 3 boxes of old musty stuff home was not an option. But so badly I wish it was. Lately the new sleek technology I have has been doing the exact opposite of what is supposed to do, make my life easier. External hard drives, SD cards are so awesome. They can hold a closet sized amount of photos in a 1 inch flat card, yet with all their power they still are prone to the hair ripping process of lost files and mis behaving technology. 

Having a full hard drive of photos I desperately needed a place to off load. Yet external hard drive after external hard drive gave me issues. Technology consistently, and generally unnoticed proves how valuable it is. Yet when a few hours of frustrating time is used up trying to fix a hard drive or SD card all of the magic they have provided is forgotten. Which, I know is a classic human error but indulge me as I pretend to be an old man and reminisce about "the old days" 

Film is just so much more simple. Even the camera with no autofocus and very limited light meter just make things easier. No hard drives, just a stack of prints and slides to sift through by hand. 



The Camera Doesn't Matter

Its almost a cliche in the photography community that its now what is taking the image, it is who. Clearly, there are some images that can't be captured without the proper gear such as telephoto lenses or a shallow depth of field. But those qualities do not determine quality of an image, merely limit the types of images you can take. This limitation is not a bad thing. Having to focus and practice within the confines of a certain focal distance or with out the ability to make large crops has made me a better photographer. 

Working with film has made me a better photographer. Limiting my abilities with the camera has made my eye more trained and in tune with the light I am seeing. Film is an incredible medium that strips away many of the crutches of digital camera work. To often I found myself editing an image, adjusting clarity to make up for bad focusing, yanking up the contrast to give an illusion of quality. After spending 3 months in India with only a point and shoot and a few rolls of film I now am back to using my eye and not my lens to find an image. 

While the type of camera and lens you use will effect the image they make, the source of that image always from from the eye behind the lens. 

These images where taken on a point and shoot sony rx100 mark 4 


I see people in hats so low that I am shocked they can even see. I feel like that was the start of a poem... I guess my creative writing class is rubbing off. 

But these hats, why do people wear them like this? Are they hiding or trying to show off the hat's logo? Who knows. So here is a picture of it. 

Gii in hat_.jpg

The Best City in the World

New York City, might the greatest place on earth. It is the whole world, cramped into 5 little boroughs and islands and injected with liquid coke. Opinions are not watered down and certainly not kept quite. Try and cut off a NYC bike messenger and you will certainly know exactly how they wish you would die. I love the rough edges of the city that also holds some of the most refined tastes for money in the world. Its financial hub for the worlds economy, new years celebrations and culture. Ever listened to a Hip Hop song? Thank the Bronx for that. NYC is an unmistakable place that holds its own aesthetic along with pieces of every other one in the world. 

A falafel salesman stands in the rain

The people of this city make up this mix of everything from bridge and tunnel cawwfy drinkers to Malin immigrants playing Tambraka music of their cell phones. While people come from all over, those from the city and who have lived their long enough develop a certain New York way of dealing with things.  

Just the buildings alone are striking.

I love New York City and can't wait to return, rain or shine. 

A Cloudy Day in Boulder

I woke up to no mountains this morning. In stead of tall beasts of rock and and dirt greeting me my window was wrapped in clouds. A rare foggy morning in Boulder was the first defeat of summers strong come back over the past week. With out a day under 65 and not a cloud to break the blue sky summer was on its way. But today was a reminder of the contrary, cool, wet and cloudy. 

Usually, these are my favorite days. Soft and desaturated light and the type of weather that inspires the very grungiest of grunge music. This comforting melancholy weather reminded me of a photo I took in 2014. The weather was matched by a melancholy day of high school, and this photo was pretty much the mood of the day. 

Anders Osborn's Crowd

Osborn brought at least 7 guitars, a killer opening band, and a lively crowd. Many members of this crowd where old enough to be my parents, but that didn't stop them from enjoying the incredible blues playing of Osborn. 

To Those Who Make Music Possible

Although I have seen your butt crack countless times, the preferable way to measure the last time you showered is in weeks, and you haven't shaved in longer, you totally rock. You, the roady. The person that rushes around checking guitars, wrapping cables, and tuning amps. You, the wonderful sound tech that makes sure the concert is as loud as possible. You, the guy that stands on the side of the stage all night until the last song has been played and then rush on stage to pack it all up.

I know how satisfying it is to build, preform and dismantle something all in one night. The amazing feeling of looking at an empty venue knowing that a few long hours before people where loosing their minds dancing to the sound you helped create. While that feeling may be satisfying, it is probably unrecognized by the lives you have impacted.

So thank you. Thank you for what you have helped make and for the memories that you have made for me.  And for the love of god, buy some suspenders. 

Stop Stealing My Photos

It happened again. Another artist posted a photograph that I took of them with out any type of credit given to me. It has become an expectation that despite my very explicit instructions my photographs will not receive credit. 

I spent the day emailing with Alex Wiley asking him to credit me on two of my images he posted. His response was an unprofessional, insulting message with some false information. The response I got was, "you absolutely do not own any image of Alex regardless of if you took it. If Alex's likeness is the subject of your image it's you that can't use Alex's likeness without our permission. If you'd like the pictures removed from Alex's account we can do that for you we definitely don't want to get any more butthurt emails from you."

Here are the facts:

1. Copyright: I as the creator have full ownership of any image I create unless explicitly stipulated in a signed contract. 

2. Rights of Publicity. Here is where things get a little more tricky. Those who have their photograph taken have the right to be protected from the use of their likeness to commercial use. Commercial use is when an image is used to promote and or advertise a product. For example, if the image of Alex in which he is wearing a hat is then used by that hat manufacturer to advertise their product with out his permission. Depending on the state (since Rights of Publicity law varies from state to state) he would could win a legal argument. Other factors in this depend on his level of celebrity and if the state recognizes the commercial use as a detriment to his public image, and again this varies from state to state. Where he does not have any rights to claim a misappropriation is if the image is used in an editorial manor of a newsworthy event. This is protected under the first amendment with free press. 

Apart from the legal aspect of this issue, it hurts me to see my work posted with out the context of my authorship. It is not right to see something in a news paper, instagram or website and then realize I created it. Sometimes I even see my images posted by people I didn't send images too or approve their use. In the case of musicians, just don't be jerks. Of all people fellow artists should understand the level of commitment that goes into creating a work and credit is deserved to those works. Sadly many concert photographers have faced similar issues with musicians not crediting a photo and later being rude about it.

I do concert photography for the same reason the musicians are on stage, for the love of it. I rarely get paid anything and all I would like is to be able to see my work recognized as my own, not stolen and used as a promotional tool for someone els. 



We should value images. Photographs should be treated with the respect that other art forms have and be credited to the people who create them.

It now has been 3 days since that exchange and the images are still on his account. 


Kids, smoking is bad. It causes bad things to happen to important parts of your body. But if you do smoke, I would love to take a photograph of it. 

I am not sure what draws me to people who smoke (in photography only). Maybe it is the faces they make, sucking in their cheeks that adds so much definition on those lovely cheek bones. Or possibly the taboo of it. Smoking, for good reason, has very much fallen out of its once glorious public image. In an image a cigarette can be a important part of the story, what lead them to take that drag and what will happen to them next? 

What ever combination it may be here are some images of smokers.

An old woman of the Himalaya, one of my favorite images I took one my trip there. She was told, "aunty, smoking is bad for you!" This was her response: 

An afternoon after hours of playing music in a small, college house.

Out side the library, on a stress full exam filled day.

Feet on the Subway

The subway is a hard place to take photos of people secretively. If I get busted it is a long ride packed in with a very confused subject. But feet offer a interesting opportunity to both take a secretive photo, and also look at the humanity of the trains. 

This girl was very drunk on the 2 from Brooklyn heading back to Manhattan:

This man was on the 2 towards Brooklyn:  

This man was on the shuttle from penn station to times square: 

Americanah as Told by Washing Machines

When ever I am asked where I am from by a foreigner I say, "America." Neglecting the United States prefix. But really, isn't that the most important part of our country's title? We are a collection of 50 united states that all have different culturally, geographically and historically. Would a Mississippian care as much about crabs as I would being from Maryland? One of the greatest things traveling has taught me is to look at my own culture, something that I used to overlook as the norm. 

One such opportunity was a family trip to Glenwood Colorado. A small mountain town with a magnificent hot spring that attracts both locals and tourists, like my family. The hotel that became home for two nights hosted one of my favorite sights from the town, the washing machine room. 

It struck me with such a sense of mundane American life that I spent enough time that my family started to wonder where I was, not something that happens often at 19. This was one of those exact examples of culture that I would over look. But after seeing the futuristic robotic appliances of Japan, the bright buckets given for hand washing in India or the sleek stainless steal washers of Western Europe this set of washers seemed so truly American to me. It seemed to be a rare cultural commonality that crossed the boarders of these United States of ours. The apparent normality of it suggests the greatest level of cultural representation. Yes, our music, film and literature are ways to see our culture but the pieces of us that we have attached to our everyday lives can be the most interesting parts of Americanah. I guess I need to go on a search for more washing rooms to really get to the bottom of this one. But for now, here is this: 

Faces of transit: Hai Phong Ferry

Trains, ferries, walking, bike, bus, car, horse, motorcycle, camel, skiing. Some of my favorite ways of getting from point at to point b. But public transport has a special place in my heart because it offers the chance to photograph the faces of transit. 

Where are you going? Why are you going there? Why this way of getting there? Weather it is a local or a fellow traveler the faces of people traveling often spark the most curiosity and tell the best stories. 

This face was seen on the Ferry to from Cat ba to Hai phong. An Australian tourist who joined me in my tumultuous journey from Ha Long bay to Saigon. She taught me many important things about life, namely how Mcdonalds is Mackers in Australia and that Australians truly are some of the most fun loving, nicest people the open road has to offer. I don't remember her name but her image sitting in the upper deck of the Hai Phong ferry has become one of my favorites portraits of transit. 

The Cutest Dog in Boulder

This dog is the reason I always have my camera with me. While reading outside of the library this lovely dog named Zoe came galavanting up to the fountain. Perplexed by the waters occasional disappearance I guess she thought the only proper response was to run around, try and eat the water and put her mouth around the faucet to have it propelled straight into her mouth. And thank goodness she did! BECAUSE IT WAS ADORABLE! See below for proof of said adorableness.


"Take no photos on the bus"

Last night I was told, "take no photos on the bus." Yet, every time I ride the bus I take photos. I love the way the light comes in at an almost perfect 45 degree angle as we drive down 30th street on my morning commute. I love the greenish florescent light that aluminates the late night faces of the riders.  And I love the mask we all put on when riding the bus. This mask of suppress all feelings, look at your phone and hold your breath till its over. I love taking those photos on the bus, and I love how much the bus surprises me with the opportunity to take so many other types of photos. 

But this time I was told to take no photos on the bus by the driver. Was she right, should I not take photos? Legally, she is not right. In the public domain permission does not have to be granted to take a photo. Weather it be a building, person or event they are all fair game for my camera. But legality and morality often do no intersect in the easiest way. I try and understand the concern people have for their image, something acutely perceived at college. Taking photographs has become synonymous with smiling and capturing our beautiful moments. We want our images to reflect only the positive. This goes beyond the selfie, when was the last time you saw a christmas card with out a smiling bunch of people standing at attention like they are a bunch of Marines? It is human nature to remember the good and forget the bad. And like many objects we have projected our nature into our cameras and created a device that goes beyond enabling our selective memory but creates a real life one.

With my camera I seek to go beyond this. To see things that go beyond the happy memories, to look at the mundane as art of our lives. The bus is a small microcosm for this debate but that night I did take no photos. 

This theme of what a photo means, when to take them and what I am doing with my camera are questions not easily ansewred and I am sure will come up in more posts. 

Here are some photos from times that I did: