Water is Life – Standing with Standing Rock

Artist and activist Leon Sun journeyed to Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in 2016 to join the water protectors at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Upon his return, he also photographed several spirited “No DAPL” rallies  in San Francisco.

In September 2016, I went with a primarily women and two-spirit delegation sent by Grassroots Global Justice and Climate Justice Alliance to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the #NoDAPL struggles there. It was called the Berta Vive delegation because we wanted to highlight the relationship between indigenous land and water struggles at Standing Rock to the fights that Berta Cáceres was engaged in, before her life was taken from her.

With on the ground leadership from the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Berta Vive delegation learned from, shared, and participated in activities at the camp.

The delegation included:
Pam Tau Lee, Chinese Progressive Association – San Francisco (CPASF)
Linda Lee, CPASF
Thuỳ Trang, CPASF
Leon Sun, CPASF
Rachel Vernon, CPASF
Cerise Palmanteer, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)
Candi Brings Plenty, Portland Jobs with Justice
Helena Wong, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Leon’s photos at Standing Rock were taken on September 27 -30, 2016.

Here is Leon’s photo essay shot at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

He continues his commentary on the “No Dakota Access Pipeline! Water is Life! photo essay with the following statement.

The spirit of the movement is revealed in the faces of the people. This has been the working principle guiding all my work as a photojournalist. I took these photos shortly after my visit to Standing Rock in September, 2016.

The spirit of Standing Rock inspired peoples from all over the world, and it could be clearly seen in the faces of the people carrying out water-protector actions here in San Francisco. I wanted to say with these photos that, yes, we are here – we are still here – strong, proud, hopeful and powerful… happy and undefeated. My hope is to inspire others to action or, at least, to not feel depressed in these Trump-pit times.

Artist’s Bio: Leon Sun

I began my work as an artist/activist in the Asian American Movement in the 1970s. From 1982-1992 I worked as a photographer and graphic designer for Unity Newspaper and as art director for East Wind Magazine. In addition, I did some did some self-directed projects in editorial photography, such as photographing life in the streets of Chinatown and in China. From 1989 to 2003 I also worked for the city of Richmond, California as a photographer and graphic designer

By the 2000s, I began studying and practicing Buddhism. After I retired from Richmond I began to pursue my own art. Nature and animals became my main source of inspiration., along with Native American and early Chinese art. I work now mostly in silk screen printing. Occasionally I apply my photography and design work to environmental justice issues, such as the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Leave a Comment