Marcus Mitchell lay facedown on the snowy North Dakota prairie, blood pouring through the gaping wound on the left side of his face. It was just past midnight on 19 January 2017, and a Morton county sheriff’s deputy had just shot the 21-year-old indigenous activist with a bean bag pellet amid a demonstration near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation against the Dakota Access pipeline. The lead pellet entered Mitchell’s left eye socket, shattering the orbital wall of his eye and his cheekbone, and ripping open a flap of skin nearly to his left ear.
Paramedics brought Mitchell to the Sanford medical center in Bismarck, North Dakota, where hospital personnel removed the lead pellet from his face. But the harrowing ordeal was only beginning.