She once had enough to steer clear of demonstrations, riots, manifestations, protests. But after Dakota Access Pipeline construction began, she suddenly left everything to reunite with her people.

Laura Hinman’s Struggle: From Fashion To Standing Rock

We be of one blood

Born in ancestors part of the Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego, California, Laura Hinman had only one thing from Native Americans – origin. Her mother, a member of the Mesa Grande reservation, was too young when she found out she was pregnant. That’s why she decided to find proper parents for adoption even before Laura was born. Her mother spent a majority of her pregnancy with that happy couple which was looking forward to greeting their future baby to this world.

“My birth mother didn’t want me to grow up on a reservation; she didn’t want me to have to live the way that she lived,” says Hinman. Drugs, violence, poverty, tough living conditions are almost endemic in the reservation, where is no electricity or running water. People suffer and people usually can’t bare it. That’s why a suicide is somehow an ordinary case for those in reservations. Because of this, it’s common to refer to reservations as death camps. “It’s the outcome of oppression,” Hinman says. Her own birth mother committed suicide 10 years ago. After a protracted struggle against schizophrenia, she eventually died because of heavy drug use.

Laura Hinman’s Struggle: From Fashion To Standing Rock

However, Laura grew up far enough from that horror. She is now 24 and she has been vigorously rising up her carrier ladder in fashion industry until now. During the past seven years, she has lived and worked in New York City, first attending Pratt Institute and then following her path to fashion. To date, she has worked as a graphic designer and a producer for the likes of Vogue and CR Fashion Book. She’s made films for downtown designers like Vaquera and Shan Huq. Laura was born into a life where she never had to think about where her water was coming from, or if it would be clean or not. She has been shooting the beautiful world where everything seems to be going well and beautifully. But now her camera is on a grassroots campaign against contamination and violence. Her camera is on a rich culture of Natives.

Laura Hinman’s Struggle: From Fashion To Standing Rock

Bringing awareness

A decision to join Standing Rock was an abrupt change of the route. Laura just suddenly figured out that was right. “When I heard [that] all these different tribes were coming together, I knew it was a sign to go,” Hinman told Broadly. “I couldn’t sit in an office while people are being harassed.” Her first day at Standing rock became a complete shock: “When I first got to camp, I broke down crying because I’ve never seen anyone who looks like me,” Laura explains. “Suddenly I was in the midst of thousands of Native women and men. It was just overwhelming. I’ve never had this before. Native Americans in general have never had this before.”

She got absorbed by this world but she still remembered the old one. Awareness became her main goal, so she raised up her camera ready for sharing her experience and soul pain with those beyond the Standing Rock boarders. She let the strangers in the world of broad strokes, tents, freezing cold, fry dough for breakfast, horses, praying, singing – unity. “I’m a bit better at visual vs. verbal storytelling, and the experiences I’ve had are stories I want to share,” she says. “Pictures and videos aren’t really a traditional part of Native life. So it’s interesting to be here, learning and practising those customs, but also wanting to capture this story.”

Laura Hinman’s Struggle: From Fashion To Standing Rock

But, of course, Laura doesn’t leave the words behind. Her Instagram posts are extremely eloquent. Via social nets she is trying to get more attention, summoning media and inspiring donation. In one of her posts she writes: “Please keep talking about it, posting about it. Social media can help us and that’s what I’m asking for, the biggest way to support in my opinion.” Recent events have brought the despair: Hinman finds awareness and attention the only lifebuoy left.



There are three main camps in the area: Sacred Stone, Rosebud and Oceti Oyate. Within the camps are hundreds of mini tents, tipis and yurts, consisting of families or specific tribes who have come out to support the cause. When you’re basically living and working inside of a huge freezer, Hinman says, surviving becomes an adventure. But when you’re working within tribes, within a larger community and sharing a common goal with your neighbors, the sense of brotherhood you feel within the camps is enough to motivate you. “This is spiritual warfare,” Hinman tells Elite Daily. “We are here to protect the water, we are not protesting or anti-anything. We are a prayer resistance camp.”

However, the authorities don’t consider Standing Rock to be that harmless. Right after Obama’s administration ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to halt plans to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, the media took that for a victory – and left. So did the major part of people in camps. “[The announcement] took all media attention off the issue,” says Hinman to Elite Daily. “When we heard this news, most of us were skeptical because we know announcements like this can be a PR move, like a distraction,” she says. The number of protestors decreased from 8,000 to just 200 in a matter of two weeks.

Laura Hinman’s Struggle: From Fashion To Standing Rock

And now, when Trump’s Pipeline approval is out, those left in the camps became an easy target for police. They are treated like terrorists, with no mercy or pity. The police don’t hesitate to use batons, rubber bullets and so on. But regardless all that horror, people in camps remain calm and non-aggressive. And this is what Hinman puts in the spotlights of her videos. People around her are singing, laughing and smiling. They don’t resort to cruelty to get their message across. “We smile at DAPL workers and remind them we want their children to be healthy, too,” says Hinman.

Laura Hinman’s Struggle: From Fashion To Standing Rock

An exclusive case

According to Hinman, it’s a rare thing for tribes to meet up like this. At camp, Hinman has met people from all over the country, from the Dakota to Alaska, and they do not plan on leaving their new connections at Standing Rock. All they are doing is connecting, uniting, teaching the youth who witnesses all these events. They do not struggle for land matters or rights. They want to preserve the water of the area. But there isn’t much time left: two weeks after Trump’s executive order granting permission for the construction of the pipeline, DAPL was expected to be operational in three months.

They are still sitting around the fire being confident in what they do. Odds are obvious but the hope isn’t gone.


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