If you head south on route 183 in central South Dakota, you’ll see sprawling farmland all around you. Bald eagles, some as tall as children, will stand guard at the side of the road and swoop low over your car.
And if you look to the left at the right moment, you’ll see a circle of five giant, white teepees standing in the center of one of the fields. You may wonder what they’re doing there, and if you’re inclined to take a detour off the highway, the people living in the teepees will welcome you with food and stories of why they’re there.
Since March, Keith Fielder has been one of the people living in those teepees. The teepees make up a Spirit Camp, built in opposition to TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
“This is the only spot in the U.S. where the pipeline would get this close to Indian land,” Fielder says, nodding toward two ceremonial sweat lodges set up 50 ft. south of the teepees. Here, the proposed pipeline would have to bend around Native land. And here, the people pray for protection for Mother Earth.
A former engineer, Fielder now works as an archaeological monitor with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in central South Dakota. Rosebud Indian Reservation sits next to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the Badlands and the Black Hills. Fielder travels throughout the U.S. and Canada to analyze geographic sites like those for historical preservation.