First Daughter and the Black Snake by Keri Pickett

Winona LaDuke believes Big Oil is the black snake predicted in indigenous prophecy to bring the earth’s destruction. When new oil pipelines threaten sacred wild rice lakes, Winona dreams of riding her horse against the current of oil, organizing a spiritual ride, “because a horse can kill a snake.”

The “Prophecy of the 7th Fire” says a “black snake” will bring destruction to the earth. We will have a choice of two paths. One is scorched, and one is green. For Winona (Ojibwe for “first daughter”), the “black snake” is oil trains and pipelines. When she learns that Canadian-owned Enbridge plans to route a new pipeline through her tribe’s 1855 Treaty land, she and her community spring into action to save the sacred wild rice lakes and preserve their traditional indigenous way of life.

Following her decision to fight Enbridge, Winona dreams that she is riding her horse against the current of the oil. Launching an annual spiritual horse ride along the proposed pipeline route, speaking at community meetings and regulatory hearings. Winona testifies that the pipeline route follows one of historical and present-day trauma. The tribe participates in the pipeline permitting process, asserting their treaty rights to protect their natural resources.

Winona is a daughter, mother, granny, and Executive Director of Honor the Earth, a native-led environmental justice organization. Winona’s mother, Betty, explains about she met Winona’s father, Sun Bear, and his traditional life of hunting, fishing, and gathering on Minnesota’s White Earth reservation. Tapping trees for syrup, harvesting the wild rice, sewing a jingle dress, defending the treaties, and tending her horses—Winona is living by her father’s values.

Winona and her son travel to Michigan on a tar sands resistance tour to an area “downwind” of Marathon’s tar sands oil refinery. Emma Lockridge and other activists reveal the health impact of living next to Marathon Petroleum in an area known as the “Sacrifice Zone.”

Winona joins with her tribe and others to demand that the pipelines’ impact on tribal people’s resources be considered in the permitting process. Winona, her community, and Emma bring their climate change concerns to Marathon Petroleum headquarters in Ohio, demonstrating with spotlights, bullhorn, drums, and song.

The colorful corn harvest provides food for the family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Winona’s passion for sustainable food and energy sources follow the green path as she, her family, and community work for sustainable food and energy in order to keep the black snake in the ground. Following the competition of the 4th annual ride against the current of oil, Enbridge announces the cancellation of the Sandpiper pipeline, investing in the Dakota Access pipeline instead. Enbridge still plans to put a new Line 3 through the same wild rice tribal territory.

  • In this time, more than any other I can remember… the voices of native women must be heard… our faces seen. And our messages shared. I am honored to join the Native Women in Film {Film Festival} as we work together and make our destiny,”  states Winona LaDuke, an environmentalist, economist, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development.

    Winona LaDuke

Production Notes

“First Daughter and the Black Snake”

Featuring: Winona LaDuke, Author, Economist and Anishinaabeg Environmental Activist

Genre: Character-driven vérité style documentary
Topics: Native American – Social Justice – Environment
Length: 90 -100 Minutes (estimated)
Language: English and Anishinaabe (Ojibwe)

Copyright © 2015 Pickett Pictures. All rights reserved.