A group of church members in Sioux Falls just returned from North Dakota where they were supporting those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The group brought firewood and other supplies to a camp occupied by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to help them last through the winter.
Pastor Jean Morrow and Nick Olson with Spirit of Peace United Church of Christ spent three days at 'Seven Council Fires' where protesters with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are camping just south of the Missouri River. Before they were even allowed in the camp, they were asked a lot of questions.
Morrow said, "The camp is incredibly clean, incredibly peaceful. There's an entrance with people at it that can stop and ask who you are, why you're there."
Olson said, "They believe at all times, there are at least 20 people placed there by Dakota Access Pipeline to cause issues or try to get information."
After they were let in the camp, the say they were welcomed into the community. Morrow spent a lot of time preparing food, while others in their group ran to get supplies.
"If you stay, you work. If you don't work they ask you to leave," said Morrow.
The group says there is a tent for everything: supplies, different tribal members and even a medic. In the middle of the camp was a sacred fire, where meetings are held and people pray.
"If people are getting too aggressive or they are not contributing to the camp, or they have the wrong attitude or are there for the wrong reasons they are asked to leave," said Olson.
The group says that Dakota Access has either a helicopter or plane flying over the camp at all times. They say they have brought in spotlights to shine light on the camp to make it harder for protesters to sleep.
The group says on Thursday they stood at the protest line, about a half mile away from the camp. A cement barrier and razor wire separated them from authorities.
"They wouldn't let you within I would say probably 20 feet of the actual barricade," said Olson. They didn't want any sort of possibility of there being a conflict that day."
There, the group says protesters held signs, prayed and even sang, which they plan to do for a long time.
"The Standing Rock people are saying we're going to stay, we're going to protect our water, we're going to protect the water that is our source but also your source," said Morrow.
"They're definitely hunkering down and preparing for the long haul," said Olson.