This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.
“We were taught that when we first appeared there was mother earth and that we would know that mother earth was being threatened the day that a big black snake came and the big black snake was basically… It wasn’t necessarily a snake. Because of that we were kind of prepped that it would be anything that was long and could be venomous and could be infectious and would be dark but would not be in human form. We were taught that on that day we will recognize, and this will be in hundreds and hundreds of years, a snake will come to threaten the land and we will know that it is time for the people to collect themselves and start kind of fighting against colonialism.”
Background information about the performance from the informant: “The big black snake is something Ive always grown up with from the time that I was like four. This is a story I was told my great grandfather who is kind of like one of the older elders for the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota and we, I used to spend half my year up at the reservation and the big thing which is related now to the DAPL, The Dakota Access Pipe Line. Whats really interesting is that this metaphor is now being used for the pipeline and my community, my native community views the pipeline as the black snake that we were warned about and we are using this folklore to kind of fight against the colonialism in our tribe basically.”
Final Thoughts: “This piece of folklore is very interesting for how it has been repossessed to fit into a more modern context. The original myth has been taken and used as symbol by the Lakota Sioux to help protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. The practice of taking folklore and adapting it to fight for apolitical cause has been going on in America for a long time. Perhaps the most notable example of this practice occurred during the era of folk music and protest songsmith musicians like Woody Guthrie. The power of using folklore as a political tool is that it helps unite the group within their shared culture and can act as universal idea everyone can feel intimately connected to.”