2017 Winner Josue Rivas

“I would like to share a dream with you. This dream takes place at the Standing Rock nation near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers. I’m camping with thousands of people and next to me is my beautiful partner with our 7 month old son. We had just drove our vehicle for more than 14 hundred miles from Los Angeles”.

While we participated in a prayer an auntie walks up to me with a red bundle of tobacco and says “Go offer it to them” their story is important. I grabbed the bundle and humbly walked up to the leader of the group and said “ Relative, here is some tobacco, I know you are still in ceremony and photos aren’t allowed but I wanted to see if I could please take portraits of the dancers when they are done. The man looked at me with a surprised face and said “Yes, thank you for asking”

The truth is that this dream never ended and to a certain degree it never really started. It was something modern and ancestral. A dream so abstract that became real, and the amazing part is that I document it it all. For months I was able to photograph the hundreds of nations and allies that came to Standing Rock to stand up for the water of life.

Last year Standing Rock became the epicenter of a modern indigenous rights movement in the United States. For almost a year, hundreds of tribal nations and allies unified in a historic gathering to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. During the first few months most mainstream media ignored the story but fortunately there was a handful of indigenous photographers, filmmakers, and citizen journalists that took initiative to document it. We as indigenous people were telling their our own story and that was powerful.