When the eviction notice came in it was just after nightfall, and our expressions of shock were lit by bonfires and phone screens. In a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Army Corps of Engineers declared that the thousands of people gathered in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline were now trespassing, and would be forced to leave in ten days' time. The news traveled traveled quickly across Oceti Sakowin camp, where many had just finished their evening meals. As I walked along the dirt road that splits the community in two, I saw people of all races, ages, and backgrounds shaking their heads. The reaction was obvious—"This is bullshit!" one man yelled. In the distance, prayers were being sung and drums pounded, low but strong.

To call the people gathered to fight against the construction of Energy Transfer Partners' DAPL project "protesters" is a mistake. During my all-too-brief visit to the camp last Friday, people from North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Washington all stopped to talk, or at least shake hands, in the middle of their work. They identify as Water Protectors, tasked with safeguarding their ancestral land and local water supply from destruction at the hands of the oil industry and the American government. Oceti Sakowin operates under a defensive mindset—everywhere protectors are digging in, sorting supplies, and readying for a long, cold fight.

My status as a media outsider who only made it to Standing Rock for a day during his Thanksgiving trip back home makes it impossible for me to make blanket statements about the camp. I can neither confirm nor deny if white people really are turning it into Burning Man, and I can't speak to the aggression of the Morton County Sheriff's Department. I can only tell you what I saw first-hand.

During my 24 hours at Standing Rock last week, the police seemed eager to keep their distance after their violent use of water cannons and concussion grenades against protectors only days earlier raised shock and outrage across the country. Inside the camp, which runs between a two-lane road and the icy Cannonball River, workers raised tipis, kids sorted through clothing donations, and strangers from across the country chatted while chopping wood for the camp's sacred fire. The air at Standing Rock is heavy with deep reverence for the past and hope for the future of the land.

It's been reported that if Energy Transfer Partners doesn't finish the DAPL by January 1st, companies committed to using their pipeline can back out of contracts, costing them millions. Time is running out. Police have begun stopping cars and trucks headed to Standing Rock with fresh supplies and handing out fines. Some say they've stopped plowing nearby roads. This weekend, thousands of armed services veterans will self-deploy to the camp in the name of protecting the protectors from militarized police. Next week, the evictions are slated to begin.

The imbalance of power surrounding the NoDAPL movement is obvious. America's legacy of destroying Native life is undeniable. And still, the emotion I encountered most at Standing Rock was one of hope, built on human trust, holy traditions, and the vigor that comes from battling injustice. If the water protectors are beaten down, uprooted, and cast aside it will be remembered as a deep national disgrace suffered for the sake of corporate profits. But if they succeed—if President Obama comes through—it could give oppressed peoples everywhere a renewed source of inspiration.