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Standing for Unity

Award-winning photographer Eugene Tapahe (Diné) took his camera to the protector camps in Standing Rock and asked a simple question: "Why are you here?" Watch his beautiful video to see the answers.

I recently traveled hundreds of miles from Utah to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota where a historic gathering of thousands from across the world are protecting the water, lands and people from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Editor’s note: Read more about the pipeline, its route across the Midwest and Missouri River and its threat to the drinking water of millions of Americans here

As a Diné (Navajo), I knew it was my responsibility to be there—to help our people, ancestors, and land.

What I experienced at the prayer camps was a spiritual awakening.

It wasn’t easy. I camped and endured 70-80 mph winds, a wind chill of minus 10 degrees, sleet and rain.

Despite these hardships, what stands out most clearly to me now are the beautiful people I met at the camps. The presence and spirit of our ancestors are strong in the camps, because of the love, unity, prayer and songs of the people.

This spirit of love and unity is what inspired me to capture these images of the camps and people. I walked the camps and asked a simple question, “Why are you here?”

With so many people and nations, I couldn’t believe the similarities in the responses I received, which made the end product that much more meaningful. I share it with you now in an effort to portray why people continue to stand with Standing Rock: They stand for nothing less than our future, our survival and for all humanity.

What the video below:


Eugene Tapahe (Diné) is an award-winning photographer and artist who specializes in capturing the beautiful landscape and people of the Southwest. He receives inspiration from his grandmother, family and culture. He is from the Navajo Nation and currently resides in Provo, Utah. Eugene can be contacted at See more of his photography at