Earth Doctor / Climate Troubadour

Black Serpent

Sweet water, from the Rockies,                    A
Montana to the plain,                                     A     E
Wide Missouri,  America’s river                   E
To amber waves of grain.                               E    A

Still see horizons black with buffalo,
Hear the steps of pioneers.
Now your freedom brought so low
By petroleum engineers.

Want their pipeline under your river,           D   A
A thousand spills to their name;                     D  A  E
Children sleeping, serpent creeping,             E
Poison into their veins.                                     E     A

Promise riches, promise freedom,                  D  A
Security, so they claim.                                     D A E
Great deceivers, willing believers,                     E
It’s all a confidence game.                                 E    A

CHORUS Lead us not into temptation                    D   A
Heal the water,  heal the nation                                D   E
Hear my prayer, may the living remain.         D   E  / E   A

Yellow metal makes the white man crazy,      A—
Lured him to the Black Hills.                            A  E
Black serpent, under Dakota,                            E—
Makes him crazier still.                                       E   A

Comes the serpent to the river.                         D  A
Brave Lakota they stand!                                    D A E—
Protect our water, protect our children          E—
Protect America’s heartland                               E   A—


Words & music ©Doug Hendren 2016      Female vocals: Carol Snell-Feikema

What’s it about?   The Lakota Nation is once again under attack, this time by a Black Serpent, an oil pipeline carrying fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields.  The Missouri River, the longest in North America, is the water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux reservation as well as for millions of other Americans.  The water is threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline (subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners), currently scheduled to cross under the Missouri River within a mile of the Standing Rock Reservation near Cannonball, North Dakota.

Lakota mythology contains a prophecy of a great black serpent one day threatening their people and bringing great sorrow. Many have identified the Bakken fields and the associated pipelines and environmental devastation as the manifestation of this prophecy.

All pipelines leak. There have been more than 3,300 US pipeline leaks reported since 2010. Allowing a pipeline through highly sensitive ecosystems is a particularly foolish and dangerous choice, burdening the public with high risk with no benefit. Every pipeline we build today is a commitment to more fossil fuel combustion.The Lakota and their allies are in America’s front lines of protecting our precious national heritage from the predations of the fossil fuel industry in its death throes. “Extreme energy” choices such as fracking put us all at risk.

There is a large and growing resistance to this dangerous pipeline. The Sacred Stone encampment near Cannonball, North Dakota, has attracted the greatest concentration of First Nations tribes since the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, and many non-native supporters as well. The Sacred Stone camp has become a powerful presence in raising public awareness resistance to the increasingly destructive and undemocratic nature of the fossil fuel industry.

The DAPL resistance to date has been peaceful and highly disciplined, despite attack dogs, pepper spray and other violent and highly provocative actions by DAPL’s security forces, caught on camera by Amy Goodman’s team from Democracy Now!

Bill McKibben, writing in The New Yorker, places the current struggle in the context of the long, dark history of violence by the US Government against Native Americans. The current violence, McKibben notes, is reminiscent of scenes from Birmingham in the early 60s.

These brave Americans deserve our support. For more information about the DAPL and the growing resistance movement, go to  Please help if you can. They are protecting us all.


  1. Beautiful, moving song! Wish we’d had it yesterday for our rally here in Asheville – 200 showed up including several Cherokee and Lakota peoples, and a brigade from Asheville heading to Dakota on Tuesday. Thanks, Doug!

  2. As always, the music is well written, well performed, and pleasant. Great piece of music Doug. I’m truly looking forward to the day when the lyrics will reflect a permanent victory in the war waged against our Earth, instead of these seemingly endless battles against the financial elite. A day when those that are selfish enough to take or destroy what doesn’t belong to them (natural resources, clean water, clean air, land) and use it for their own benefit at the expense of everyone else. Let’s hope that in our lifetime, Doug will be singing a victory song talking about when good finally destroyed evil.

  3. Marvelous! You just keep getting better, Doug. So grateful to have your voice, and that of others who help, in this fight. Pete Seeger would be proud of you. Me too. Anne

  4. Really moving song, especially now that Trump has approved the construction of this last link over sensitive waters. Thanks for the beautiful lyrics! And thanks for your efforts!

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