Katherine Todrys has written an important book. For all of us who have been rooting for Native Americans in their fight to stop the building of oil pipelines across Native lands and important ecological landscapes, it is a welcomed history. Black Snake is not only exhaustively researched but also masterfully written. It is a must-read for grasping the history of Native Americans’ tragic relationship with the U.S. government and out-of-control capitalism.”—Dan O’Brien, author of Great Plains Bison
Black Snake draws on firsthand interviews to tell an important history from the perspective of those who lived it. Thank you for this book.”—Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lakota civil rights activist
Black Snake is a necessary book, something that Indigenous history needs right now; it is an absorbing story of Native American resilience, protest, and agency. It is a book that should be on reading lists across the United States and beyond.”—Pekka Hamalainen, author of Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power
Todrys tells the story of the people in this fight, of their heartening advances and demoralizing setbacks, in a textured, personal way that brings to life their mistreatment and their inspiring response. This book is a dramatic illustration of how to stand up to powerful interests that are long used to simply casting aside the people in their way.”—Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch
I’m so happy this book exists—it tells much of the backstory behind an absolutely epic environmental drama, and it highlights some of the remarkable women who led the fight. If you didn’t get a chance to join the encampment at Standing Rock, this account will put you there!”—Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
Researcher Todrys documents the protest movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which has spent years in the headlines as a pivotal fight for clean water and environmental protection on Indigenous land. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault and Tribal Council member Dana Yellow Fat brought a civil lawsuit against Dakota Access LLC, to stop the pipeline's construction; the suit was part of an entrenched battle regarding sovereignty, land rights, and the upholding of environmental protections. For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the case is about the Black Hills and the treaties not honored by the U.S. government. Todrys skillfully explores the stories of four Indigenous women in the anti-DAPL movement: Lisa DeVille, Jasilyn Charger, LaDonna Allard, and Kandi (Mossett) White. Their strength and resilience built and fostered the nonviolent community of protestors (numbering over 10,000 people at times) fighting the "black snake" of the pipeline. Chapters bring readers into the heart of the movement, its triumphs, and the undeniable violence and pain the protestors endured for the Mní Wicóni ("water is life") movement. VERDICT A humanistic investigative documentation of the legal and political battle of DAPL. It will appeal to readers interested in Indigenous movements, environmental movements, and the historical significance of this protest.—Angela Forret, State Lib. of Iowa, Des Moines
Searching account of Native resistance to the oil pipeline that has steadily invaded their homelands.
Dakota Access, a company specializing in transporting oil from the vast Bakken fields of North Dakota and points beyond, had long had its way in securing easements for its pipeline across multiple states. Then, writes human rights lawyer Todrys, they ran into the Standing Rock Sioux, “who would not be bought off.” Indeed, the leadership of Standing Rock had allowed an escrow account meant to compensate the tribe for the loss of the Black Hills to reach $2 billion and go untouched: “The Sioux don’t want the money; they want the Black Hills.” Todrys examines the paths by which Native “water protectors,” many of them teenagers, and non-Native allies came together to resist Dakota Access’ legal onslaught. Not all of the Native people in the pipeline’s path joined in that resistance: She portrays one politician who made a fortune with an energy subcontracting firm of his own, which secured jobs for “oil companies that ostensibly operated under his tribe’s regulation” but pretty much did what they pleased. Those companies scored an early victory with the Trump administration. As it greenlighted the abrogation of tribal sovereign rights, it also relaxed environmental regulations and cheered the arrests of some 600 water protectors. Many Republican-led states, meanwhile, promulgated bills “aimed at restricting the right to peaceful assembly” so that similar protests could not be mounted again. Yet, as Todrys writes in this wide-ranging account, the legal wheels turn slowly. In March 2020, a federal judge demanded that the Army Corps of Engineers conduct the complete environmental review that Trump officials had dispensed with—a review that is ongoing under a new administration and that may close the pipeline, which has since leaked nearly 600,000 gallons of crude oil across the Dakotas.
An important work of environmental and legal reportage on a contest that will likely continue for years.