Prophecy about black snake

When I first heard the Lakota prophecy about the black snake, I thought it was amazing that a sacred message from so long ago was coming true. What that said about Indigenous spirituality.

I thought the image of the black snake was so powerful. A symbol of the evils of the wanton disregard for Mother Earth and balance and what that means for future generations. I thought of one of the most powerful symbols in my life, the image of my beloved Rocky Mountains hidden in clouds of pollution.

There is an ancient Lakota prophecy about a black snake that would slither across the land, desecrating the sacred sites and poisoning the water before destroying the Earth. 

For many Indigenous people gathered near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, that snake has a name — the Dakota Access pipeline.

‘We must kill the black snake’: Prophecy and prayer motivate Standing Rock movement. Indigenous leaders say effort to oppose Dakota Access pipeline rooted in power of prayer by Karen Pauls, CBC.CA, Dec 11, 2016

This reflection on the prophecy of the black snake was prompted by another story in today’s Des Moines Register about a proposed new carbon capture pipeline.

I should not have been surprised by the following story in the Des Moines Register, Company wants to build a carbon sequestration pipeline in 30 Iowa counties, but I was. It was predictable that unrealistic ideas would be put forth as the reality of deepening environmental chaos can no longer be ignored. As just today we are seeing the devastation of the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

I hope the news about this pipeline might provide a teachable moment to illustrate why we need Indigenous leadership now. There are all kinds of reasons why a carbon capture pipeline should not be built. There is a matter of scale, ie what percentage of all the carbon emitted would be captured? How much energy is consumed by the capture process and to move the liquid through the pipeline? Can the liquid be safely stored for hundreds of years? How much more fertile farm ground will be destroyed by the pipeline construction? How much water is used? How many more relatives will be missing or murdered? How much profit will be generated, and for who?

I think this provides a clear example of why Indigenous liberation is the only hope for Mother Earth. Carbon capture pipelines are typical projects funded by banks, fossil fuel companies and white legislators and businessmen. Even though it is clear that continuing fossil fuel driven capitalism will only lead to increasingly dire environmental chaos. An existential threat. Our only hope is to stop spewing tons of fossil fuel emissions into the air.

Today’s Register story includes remarks made by my friends Lee Tesdell (my Scattergood School classmate) and Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa, about the company, Summit, who plans to build the carbon capture pipeline.

Summit hired Branstad, who was the U.S. ambassador to China under President Donald Trump, in March as a senior policy adviser to provide “oversight, leadership and guidance on public policy matters affecting stakeholders” in what the company says will be the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project.

At a Sept. 13 meeting in Ames, Lee Tesdell, a central Iowa farmland owner, asked whether any of the Iowa Utilities Board members were appointed by Branstad and whether they would recuse themselves from making a decision about whether Summit should receive a permit to build nearly 710 miles of pipeline across Iowa.

TesdelI, whose central Iowa farm is not in the pipeline’s pathway, said he believes board members Branstad appointed have a conflict of interest. “Either Branstad should resign from the Midwest Carbon Express team or they (board members) should recuse themselves,” he said.


In 2017, Lozier recused himself from the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline case because he had represented a pro-pipeline lobby group in court as a private attorney before joining the utilities board.

Ed Fallon, a former state representative and vocal Dakota Access pipeline opponent, said he believes the Iowa Utilities Board members should recuse themselves. “Given their high-salary positions, they’re beholden to Branstad, and that gives the impression that they would be inclined to vote his way,” Fallon said.

Board members are required to spend their “whole time” on state utility issues. Huser earned a base salary of $128,890 last year, and Lozier, $122,428, according to the state employee salary book. No salary was recorded for Byrnes last year.

Critics of $4.5 billion carbon capture pipeline say Branstad appointees have conflict, should recuse themselves by Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register, Sept 20, 2021

“I, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations, ask you to understand an Indigenous perspective on what has happened in America, what we call “Turtle Island.” My words seek to unite the global community through a message from our sacred ceremonies to unite spiritually, each in our own ways of beliefs in the Creator.”

“There needs to be a fast move toward other forms of energy that are safe for all nations upon Mother Earth. We need to understand the types of minds that are continuing to destroy the spirit of our whole global community. Unless we do this, the powers of destruction will overwhelm us.”

“To us, as caretakers of the heart of Mother Earth, falls the responsibility of turning back the powers of destruction. You yourself are the one who must decide.”

“You alone – and only you – can make this crucial choice, to walk in honor or to dishonor your relatives. On your decision depends the fate of the entire World.”

Important Message from Keeper of Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. I, Chief Arvol Looking Horse ask you to understand an Indigenous perspective on what has happened in America, what we call “Turtle Island.” by CHIEF ARVOL LOOKING HORSE, Indian Country Today, Sept 7, 2017

These are photos from the day a van full of us went to Minneapolis for a rally related to USBank’s funding of fossil fuel projects. Minneapolis is the headquarters of USBank.

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