Your Humble Serpent: The Wisdom of Reuben Snake
Reuben Snake was a unique and compelling American Indian leader, visionary, and activist. Filled with rich and revealing examples of his storytelling prowess, this inspiring biographical portrait explores his life and philosophy and examines his provocative views on ecology, sacredness, intuitive thinking, and “the rebrowning of America.”
As Snake grew up, his elders taught him that a leader is a servant to his people. Overcoming adversity and alcoholism in his youth, he lived his life true to that teaching, serving his country as a Green Beret, his tribe as Winnebago Tribal Chairman, and all Indian people as President of the National Conference of American Indians.
The film emphasizes Snake’s search for spiritual meaning in life, highlighting his influential ideas on the differences between the rational, “linear” thought of Western philosophy and the intuitive, “cyclical” thought of Native peoples. He criticizes Western philosophy for leading us toward the destruction of the earth, and argues that intuitive, cyclical thinkers hold the earth to be sacred and understand how everything is interrelated.
The film also focuses on his leadership of the movement to overturn the 1990 Supreme Court decision that forbade the traditional sacramental use of peyote by the 300,000 members of the Native American Church. His efforts resulted in the passage in 1994 — a year after his death — of the Amendment to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act that legalized sacramental peyote use for American Indians.
“Your Humble Serpent” will stimulate thought and discussion in a variety of courses in Native American studies, religious studies and comparative religion, cultural anthropology, American history and studies, and legal studies. It was produced by Gary Rhine for Kifaru Productions and was co-written and narrated by Hayna Brown, a Winnebago and friend of Snake since childhood.