highly symbolic race with our Hopi brothers and sisters some years ago. Aside from the obvious first-degree meaning, this expression serves as a powerful reminder that water is Nature’s blood, and without it, nothing else can exist.
As Westerners, we have done the worst, the unforgivable, to the water of the Earth. We have used it without measure, drained it from millennial reserves, soiled it beyond salvation and polluted it with the waste of our unsustainable lifestyle.
We have wronged our Mother, and we have wronged her People. I saw the corrupted wells at First Mesa, with their crystalline waters changed into chemical waste toxic to any life. I witnessed the devastation caused by mining and the complete disrespect for the value of Nature. I met fellow Humans who cannot access any water unless it’s trucked in from afar, because they are surrounded with tainted wells and wasted aquifers.
Almost two centuries of Western industry has proven beyond doubt that companies cannot be trusted to preserve and protect the environment. They are designed to generate profit in dollars, nothing else. They will do that at the expense of anything; surrounding communities, their workers and even the Planet that sustains our life.
Whether these companies are mining, fracking for fuel or carrying dangerous chemicals like petroleum, they have proven time and again that they will not only neglect the safety and well-being of the Earth and its People; they will also lie and slither in the back scenes to avoid any responsibilities, financial or other, for the terrible harm that they cause.
So when we are told that the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) represents no harm to the environment or the people, that it is in the best interest of the American economy, that it will generate work and revenue and that it is a lawful project only opposed by a small group of rogue “extremists”, I instantaneously recognize the same corporate propaganda used by Exxon, Union Carbide, British Petroleum (BP), TEPCO and too many others, and I know what’s to follow. A year, five years or maybe a decade or two from now, someone will uncover a horrible toxic spill of millions of gallons of pure chemical poison injected directly inside the ground through a pipeline break or a maintenance oversight. The company, Energy Transfer Partners, will first deny it, then find some other possible cause to blame until it’s proven beyond any doubt that they are directly responsible. They will apologize, fire an executive or two and promise a thorough cleaning, then drag their case in courts for decades until they either shut down, get a bargain deal or coerce governments into paying the astronomical costs of their greed and negligence.
They are what the Sioux call the Black Snake.
I cannot support the destruction of Nature and the utter disregard for the value of Life any longer. I have seen enough of what my culture has done to the World to understand that our ways are wrong. I am ashamed of my ancestors and disconnected from any meaningful roots to Humanity. I am an unwilling cog in a devastation machine that will never stop until nothing is left.
And yet, when I show up in a Native gathering, I am invited into the circle. I am told “Welcome back”. I am greeted by elders and included. And the teachings I hear are all about connection, respect, humility and the stewardship of Nature. I am shown and given access to cultures that have thrived for millennia on and with the Earth, in balance and harmony. I am offered stories, shares of the food and a seat by the fire. I discover wise, ancient ways filled with meaning and sense, where every living thing is connected, among themselves and with the Earth. Where the talk is about balance, cycles and the value of Life.
So who am I going to believe? The Black Snake?
In an era where greed, hatred, fear, self-promotion and entitlement seem to reach their summit, I listen to the voices of peace, respect, humility and preservation. When I see armored forces with pepper spray and high-power hoses on one side, and a peaceful, chanting, praying, united community on the other, I know where I stand.
I stand with Nature. I stand with the Sioux Community and the People of the Earth.
I stand with Standing Rock.