In August the Oceti Sakowin Camp had around 40 people in it, said Spud MedicineHorse.
“You could meet people and probably remember everyone’s name,” he said.
Now, the camp is home to about 1,500 people from all over the country. Some describe it as a heart, pumping people in and out on a daily basis.
MedicineHorse, a member of the Crow tribe, has never seen anything like it.
“To see what it has grown into now is absolutely amazing."
Although MedicineHorse visits Crow Agency several times a year, he has lived in Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation most of his life. He recalls hearing about the Dakota Access Pipeline in April.
But everything started to escalate in August, he said.
That’s when MedicineHorse decided he would stay at the camp, and he’s been there ever since. When he’s not at camp, he works as a ranch hand to support himself.
MedicineHorse rides, breaks and trains horses. He’s also one of many protesters who ride on horseback during the demonstrations.
Talon Voice, 19, a ranch hand from Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota, also rides in the demonstrations. He was one of four horsemen who were involved in a Sept. 3 clash with police, DAPL security and their dogs. A dog bit Voice’s horse in the back of the leg.
“It was an experience I will never forget,” Voice said.
Both men said there are agitators who incite violence during the peaceful protests.
“The people who bring violence, guns and all that stuff don’t think about the long haul,” MedicineHorse said. "(Standing Rock residents) are the ones that have to live here, and we are the ones that have to put up with the outcome.”
Seven generations ago, his ancestors fought the same fight. He said he believes it’s the younger generation's turn to do the same by getting involved in peaceful prayer and spreading the word.
“I love my people with all my heart,” MedicineHorse said. “But we don’t need that (violence) here right now. We are supposed to be in peaceful prayer.”
With their families living downstream from where the pipeline is scheduled to be constructed, MedicineHorse and Voice have no intention of leaving.
“I just want clean drinking water for them, and I’ll keep helping however long it takes,” Voice said.