Several thousand Native Americans and their supporters continued to camp out near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota on Thanksgiving Day.
Thousands of people have passed through the camp and more have pledged support. Numbers swell in the camp on weekends; some estimate that the population has doubled with the holiday.
After a violent clash with police less than a week ago, in which dozens were injured, rumors of police raids traveled through the camp on Thursday, but none actually occurred.
Instead, led by the International Indigenous Youth Council, protesters — or water protectors, as they identify themselves — built a floating bridge near the camp in an effort to cross a creek to Turtle Island, which is considered sacred ground. After they crossed, protesters gathered in a prayer circle, marking the moment by holding hands and singing.
“There was a lot of ceremony and prayer and song and it was beautiful,” said Vanessa Red Bull, a medic from the Cherokee nation, who has been at the camp for several months. She describes a humanizing scene, where despite the tension, police and protesters were able to converse without clashing.
“Everybody peacefully went home, even though these actions lasted multiple hours. It was peaceful. No one got hurt, and at the end of the day as a medic, that’s what we hope for.”