Black Snake


Black Snake

Standing Rock, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Environmental Justice

Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys

336 pages
28 photographs, 1 map, index


June 2021


$24.95 Pre-order

About the Book

The controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) made headlines around the world in 2016. Supporters called the pipeline key to safely transporting American oil from the Bakken oil fields of the northern plains to markets nationwide, essential to both national security and prosperity. Native activists named it the “black snake,” referring to an ancient prophecy about a terrible snake that would one day devour the earth. Activists rallied near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota for months in opposition to DAPL, winning an unprecedented but temporary victory before the federal government ultimately permitted the pipeline. Oil began flowing on June 1, 2017.

The water protector camps drew global support and united more than three hundred tribes in perhaps the largest Native alliance in U.S. history. While it faced violent opposition, the peaceful movement against DAPL has become one of the most crucial human rights movements of our time.

Black Snake is the story of four leaders—LaDonna Allard, Jasilyn Charger, Lisa DeVille, and Kandi White—and their fight against the pipeline. It is the story of Native nations combating environmental injustice and longtime discrimination and rebuilding their communities. It is the story of a new generation of environmental activists, galvanized at Standing Rock, becoming the protectors of America’s natural resources.

Author Bio

Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys is a human rights lawyer and former researcher at Human Rights Watch. She specializes in health and human rights issues.


“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?

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

“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

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

“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

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Oil Production in the Bakken
2. Pipelines and POWER on Fort Berthold
3. Origins of the Camp at Standing Rock
4. Seventh Generation Rising
5. Militarization of the Response
6. Victory on the Heels of Violence
7. From Victory to Eviction
8. The Standing Rock Legacy

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