Several thousand Native Americans and their supporters continued to camp out near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota on Thanksgiving Day.

Citizens of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation set up the Sacred Stone Camp in April to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, which they say would threaten nearby burial sites and the Sioux water supply.

“We don’t think of it as celebrating Thanksgiving we think of it as a federal holiday where we get to spend time with family and family is important to us,” said Dave Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal council.

“Every day is just another day,” Archambault said about Thanksgiving’s significance. “We just have to keep moving forward and fight for our rights.”

Thousands of people have passed through the camp and more have pledged support. Numbers swell in the camp on weekends; some estimate that the population has doubled with the holiday.

Led by the International Indigenous Youth Council, water protectors built a floating bridge near the camp in an effort to cross a creek to Turtle Island, which is considered sacred ground. After they crossed, protesters gathered in a prayer circle, marking the moment by holding hands and singing.

"There was a lot of ceremony and prayer and song and it was beautiful," said Vanessa Red Bull, a medic from the Cherokee nation, who has been at the camp for several months. She describes a humanizing scene, where despite the tension, police and protectors were able to converse without incident.

"Everybody peacefully went home, even though these actions lasted multiple hours. It was peaceful. No one got hurt, and at the end of the day as a medic, that's what we hope for."

Photos: Cassi Alexandra

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