LaDuke at the Dream Reborn Conference, April 2008
|Born||(1959-08-18) August 18, 1959
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard University
Food for us comes from our relatives, whether they have wings or fins or roots. That is how we consider food. Food has a culture. It has a history. It has a story. It has relationships.
I wanted to get out of Ashland, and I thought it would be pretty cool to go to school in the East. So I asked my guidance counselor what Ivy League schools were. And I applied to Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth – that was it. My guidance counselor told me I wouldn’t get into an Ivy League school. So as my act of resistance, that’s all I applied to.
I think of some of my friends who have passed to the spirit world but are who here with me when I go to events and when I walk in my own community. My sisters, Ingred, my sister Marsha, and my sister Nielock. All cofounders of the Indigenous Women’s Network with me. All long time women activists in the native community.
The first thing I am is a person. I am a woman. And I am part of a nation, the Indian nation. But people either relate to you as an Indian or as a woman. They relate to you as a category. A lot of people don’t realize that I am not that different from everyone else.
Mother Earth needs us to keep our covenant. We will do this in courts, we will do this on our radio station, and we will commit to our descendants to work hard to protect this land and water for them. Whether you have feet, wings, fins, or roots, we are all in it together.
I’m Harvard-educated; I’m an economist by training. I’m an author, a journalist, as well as being active in community development.
In most of America, it seems you don’t matter if you’re not between 25 and 50.
The thing about being an Indian person is that you feel most at home with your own people.
Now that I think about it, I was arrested in 1992. Some people may think of that as a bad thing, but I feel good about it. I chained myself to the gate of a phone book factory, a GTE factory in Los Angeles. They were using thousand-year-old trees to make phone books. I think that’s a total waste of a tree.
I look at my own reservation, the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota – on my reservation, one quarter of our money is spent on energy. All of that money basically goes to off-reservation vendors whether it is for electricity, or whether it is for fuel.
In the end, there is no absence of irony: the integrity of what is sacred to Native Americans will be determined by the government that has been responsible for doing everything in its power to destroy Native American cultures.
I’m interested in what kind of food we’re going to eat as the climate changes. I’m interested in what kind of economy we’re going to have in another 1,000 years.
America is so accustomed to some depiction of native people that is entirely racist, and there’s a perception that that is okay.
On my reservation, we had one of the most abundant fisheries in the world and hundreds of thousands of acres of wild rice beds. We’ve lost a lot of it, but there’s still natural wealth that could support our communities.
If you’re going to spend most of your time in your democracy figuring out how to get oil by intervening into other people’s countries and insuring that you follow it with military might, we think there’s an alternative. Which would be renewable energy.
Eliminating some 3600 post offices – mostly rural – will save the USPS less than seven tenths of one percent of their operating budget, but nationally, a number of tribal communities will be hit.
Post office closures in the Dakotas and Minnesota will impact many communities, but the White Earth reservation villages, and other tribal towns of Squaw Lake, Ponemah, Brookston in Minnesota, and Manderson, Wounded Knee and Wakpala (South Dakota) as well as Mandaree in North Dakota will mean hardships for a largely Native community.
What we all need to do is find the wellspring that keeps us going, that gives us the strength and patience to keep up this struggle for a long time.
The reality is, is that the military is full of native nomenclature. That’s what we would call it. You’ve got Black Hawk helicopters, Apache Longbow helicopters. You’ve got Tomahawk missiles. The term used when you leave a military base in a foreign country is to go ‘off the reservation, into Indian Country.’
I used to go to some Harvard parties with my athlete friends, and they would introduce me as ‘Winona, the Indian activist.’ It made me uncomfortable. I felt like a novelty.
I see a lot of damage to Mother Earth. I see water being taken from creeks where water belongs to animals, not to oil companies.
The United States – you know, native people are large landowners, but the military has a huge chunk of our territories. And in those, there are a number of places that are our sacred sites.
In the time of the sacred sites and the crashing of ecosystems and worlds, it may be worth not making a commodity out of all that is revered.
The United States, you know, people – one of the reasons that it is said that native people received citizenship in 1924 was so that they could be drafted. And they have been extensively drafted.
Food sovereignty is an affirmation of who we are as indigenous peoples and a way, one of the most surefooted ways, to restore our relationship with the world around us.
We are launching a campaign called Wind, Not War, which is about the alternatives to a fossil-fuels-based economy and looking at wind, an alternative energy, as key to that in terms of issues of global climate change as well as issues of democracy.
Tribes have the potential to provide almost 15 percent of the country’s electricity with wind power, and have 4.5 times the solar resources to power the entire U.S.
If we moved from industrialized agriculture to re-localized organic agriculture, we could sequester about one quarter of the carbon moving into the air and destroying our glaciers, oceans, forests and lands.
Native people – about two-thirds of the uranium in the United States is on indigenous lands. On a worldwide scale, about 70 percent of the uranium is either in Aboriginal lands in Australia or up in the Subarctic of Canada, where native people are still fighting uranium mining.
The idea that you can dress up in some kind of a fake Indian outfit and get on stage is somehow acceptable in this country. That has to do with the fact that you have the Redskins, the Braves, you have people who dress up like Indians, people dress up like Indians on Halloween. That is acceptable.
We filed a constitutional rights lawsuit on my reservation, and I had to go out and interview all these old people. And I found that many of the old people on my reservation didn’t know who was president. That kind of pointed out to me the irrelevance at times of who is in Washington.
When I first came to Harvard, I thought to myself, ‘What kind of an Indian am I?’ because I did not grow up on a reservation. But being an Indian is a combination of things. It’s your blood. It’s your spirituality. And it’s fighting for the Indian people.
Ojibwe prophecy speaks of a time during the seventh fire when our people will have a choice between two paths. The first path is well-worn and scorched. The second path is new and green. It is our choice as communities and as individuals how we will proceed.