NEAR CANNON BALL, N.D. — When visitors turn off a narrow North Dakota highway and drive into the Sacred Stone Camp, where thousands have come to protest an oil pipeline, they thread through an arcade of flags whipping in the wind. Each represents one of the 280 Native American tribes that have flocked here in what activists are calling the largest, most diverse tribal action in at least a century, perhaps since Little Bighorn.
They have come from across the Plains and the Mountain West, from places like California, Florida, Peru and New Zealand. They are Oglala Lakota, Navajo, Seneca, Onondaga and Anishinaabe. Their names include Keeyana Yellowman, Peter Owl Boy, Santana Running Bear and Darrell Holy Eagle.
Some came alone, driving 24 hours straight across the Plains when they saw news on social media about the swelling protest. Some came in caravans with dozens of friends and relatives. One man walked from Bismarck.
Others finished the journey in canoes. They brought ceremonial pipes, dried sage, eagle-feather headdresses and horses that they ride bareback through the sea of prairie grass. They sleep in tepees, camper trailers and tents, and they sing and drum by firelight at a camp that sits on Army Corps of Engineers land.
On Friday, the federal government announced that it was temporarilyblocking construction of the pipeline at an important river crossing just up the road from the camp.
“We say ‘mni wiconi’: Water is life,” said David Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation sits just south of the pipeline’s route. “We can’t put it at risk, not for just us, but everybody downstream.”
He added: “We’re looking out for our future, the children who are not even born yet. What is it they will need? It’s water. When we start talking about water, we’re talking about the future generations.”
Here are stories about a few of the people who have come to this remote rolling corner of North Dakota.
Howard Eagle Shield
Sioux of North Dakota
“This is my home, and my granddaughters are going to be here long after I’m gone,” Mr. Eagle Shield said.
He grew up in North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Reservation. “There was trees all the way through here, all the way down to the Nebraska border,” he said of his youth. “There were trees big enough that it would take five or six guys to hold their hands around to circle those trees. And they’re all flooded out; they’re gone after they put this dam up.”
Joseph and Kinehsche’ Marshall
Hoopa Valley tribe of Northern California
“I’ve been telling her since she was a little person that she’s the storyteller,” Mr. Marshall said of Kinehsche’, his 9-year-old daughter. “When we’re all gone, she’s going to be the one telling the story. So it was really important that as soon as I found out I was going, I was like, ‘Kinehsche’, you’re going with me.’ ”
Menominee tribe of Wisconsin
Apesanahkwat spent 30 years as the tribal chairman of the Menominee. “It wasn’t something I chose when I came home from Vietnam,” he said. But it led him into a career in Washington, D.C., which is near where he now lives.
When he heard of the events in North Dakota, he felt compelled to drive to the Sacred Stone Camp. “All of these things that are happening are incredibly beautiful,” he said.
Aaron Makwa Chivis, Joe Amik Syrette and Cece Stevens
Anishinaabek of Michigan
“The water that comes from Mother Earth is like her blood, which gives life,” said Mr. Syrette, center.
“A lot of our teaching is to respect all women,” he said, explaining that the ability to bear children in water was one source of the respect. “So they have that connection. For myself to be here, it’s a representation of all of the women in my life. Starting with my ancestors, to my grandmother, my mother, my wife, my sister, my daughters.”
Lakota and Dakota of South Dakota
Arrow Heart, a senior at Little Wound School in Kyle, S.D., travels with his family to the Standing Rock Reservation every year for the annual pow wow, a spiritual gathering for indigenous communities.
“I’ve been doing that for 15 years now. Haven’t missed it once,” he said, adding that it was “awesome that people are getting together to protect the water.”
Ceanna Horned Eagle
Nakota and Kickapoo of Kansas
“Many of our ways — our culture, our way of life, our spirituality, our language — we have slowly lost it,” said Ms. Horned Eagle, who has a prayer fan tattooed on her neck.
“But I have seen a change. We’re trying to relearn it or to gain it back. And this coming together gives me hope that my kids won’t have to fight as hard as my parents did, as I have,” she said.
Cheyenne of Kansas
Ms. Custer, who drove to Cannon Ball from Atchison, Kan., says she grew up with the knowledge that she is a fifth-generation descendent of Gen. George Custer and a Cheyenne woman.
“This water is sacred, and this water is important,” she said. “I’m here because that water — not only does it feed this state, it goes through many states, and it goes directly through the city I live in. I have four children of my own, and my children deserve to have clean water.”
Lakota and Swinomish of Washington
“Our water matters, and they can’t just put a pipeline through it,” Charles, 13, said.
His father is Lakota from Standing Rock and his mother is Swinomish from La Conner, Wash. The family returns to Standing Rock often to visit relatives.
Catcher Cuts the Road
Aanii and Nakota
An Army veteran who was wounded in Falluja, Iraq, Catcher Cuts the Road spoke of his hope for a nonviolent resolution to the dispute over the Dakota Access pipeline. “We will stop the pipeline, and we will do it peacefully,” he said.
John Thomas Arnel
Northern Arapaho of Wyoming
“The veterans that are here, we fought for this country,” Mr. Arnel said. “We fought for this land to preserve it for our future generations to enjoy it.”
“We helped defend with nontribal members,” he continued, “and other people that have different points of view from all around the world. We were all united as military, but once you get out and come back to the civilian sector, you’re automatically put into a demographic scale.”
“But,” he added, “we’re all Americans.”
Standing Rock Lakota of South Dakota
“You can feel the strength of the prayers here,” said Ms. Thompson, who had been at the camp for four weeks. “Poisoning the water is not good for anybody, and especially Mother Earth.”
She added, “We don’t need the poison to cut right through the middle of the United States.”
Grandson of a Cherokee from South Carolina
“I know a big part of the discrimination here is due to ignorance, because our history books don’t tell the whole story for us, for Native Americans,” said Mr. Page, who lives in Fargo, N.D. “And people are stuck in those beliefs.”
Chumash, Sioux, and Hunkpapa of California
Jakob, 11, is spending two weeks at the camp with his family. “Some parts are super cold, and the rest is warm,” he said of the Cannonball River, which he swims in almost every day.
Paiute of Oregon
Ms. Henry-Suppah wears a traditional wing dress with ribbons, beaded necklaces, shells, otter furs and basket earrings for a ceremony.
She said she kept the following Native American proverb in mind while in North Dakota: “Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children.”
“We’ve lived without money,” she added. “We can live without oil, but no human being can live without water.”
Diné of Arizona
Mr. Perry walked 45 miles to the Sacred Stone Camp from Bismarck, N.D., after flying there from Arizona.
“We are all like water,” he said. “And if you hurt water, then you hurt us — us meaning the United States.”
Shirley Romero Otero
Chicana of Colorado
“When we heard about this particular struggle, our hearts pulled us this way,” Ms. Otero said, “because the next battle after losing our land is truly the fight for water.”
Ms. Otero’s community in San Luis, Colo., is dealing with its own fight for water.