We Were There to Protect the Water

At 19 years old, Dion Ortiz left his birthplace of San Felipe Pueblo for Denver. His basic plan was to escape the bad habits he’d picked up. After a few months, he landed a construction job, but didn’t see much else on the horizon.

Before he could settle in during the summer of 2016, his friend mentioned a gathering happening at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, about nine hours northeast of Denver by car—something about an oil pipeline, and protecting the water. Ortiz only had a week to decide.

The decision to go, he learned last month, would lead to a 16-month prison sentence, making Ortiz the second person from Northern New Mexico imprisoned for actions while taking part in the protests.

“Even just hearing about Standing Rock, I didn’t know much more than what they told me was going on,” Ortiz tells SFR over the phone from inside a county jail in North Dakota. “I didn’t look it up or anything. But I decided to drive up here with them anyway.”

On Ortiz’ first full day at Standing Rock over two years ago, private security forces hired by Energy Transfer Partners, the company installing the massive Dakota Access Pipeline, attacked water protectors with security dogs. The dramatic images gripped the nation, and plunged Ortiz into a movement he says gave him a new sense of purpose.

Please read the article at The Santa Fe Reporter