In 1959, Winona LaDuke wrote the following: “The essence of the problem is about consumption, recognizing that a society that consumes one-third of the world’s resources is unsustainable. This level of consumption requires constant intervention into other people’s lands. That’s what’s going on.” She was describing the dire state of Earth, the human habit of taking from it without giving back enough, and how these things naturally lead to the exploitation of people and land theft. It’s been over 50 years since Winona captured this thought and her words still ring true. Humans, now more than ever, have a skewed perception of nature. Instead of viewing the Earth as the delicately balanced ecosystem that it is, we see it as a bottomless well of resources and a means of making profit. This very way of thinking has left forests that were once lush, barren, oceans that were once healthy, polluted and overfished, and air that was once clean, toxic.
Throughout her entire life, LaDuke has tried to slow this process down, and make people realize the negative repercussions their actions could have, and equally, the incredibly positive impact they could have by making small but effective changes to their habits. LaDuke began her activist career very young, drawing inspiration from her father who became involved in Native American environmental issues after meeting a Cherokee activist as a student at Harvard.
At the age of 18, she addressed the United Nations on Native American issues. She graduated from Harvard in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in native economic development and moved to the White Earth Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. Here, she founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project, an effort that would reclaim lands that had been promised to the people of White Earth but slowly were being stolen back from the U.S. government. Within this group, she started the Circle Loan Fund (now known as the White Earth Investment Initiative), an assistance program for tribal members. She also assisted schools through the Ojibwe Language Program, which works not only to revitalize this endangered native language but provide opportunities for those who demonstrate strong dedication to learning to speak and teach the Ojibwe language.
LaDuke’s journey has not been smooth. She has been on the losing side of many legal battles, but her perseverance earned her human rights awards and grants that would eventually help her and the White Earth group reclaim 1,000 acres of land. They hope to acquire 30,000 more in the next 15 years. LaDuke’s influence has a much further reach than her circle of peers at White Earth, though. LaDuke has served on several boards, including the Indigenous Women’s Network and Greenpeace USA. She has run alongside Ralph Nader as a vice-presidential candidate for the Green Party in both 1996 and 2000.
Fostering a Respect for Earth and Affecting Change
LaDuke is also founding director of Honor the Earth, a national Native American foundation. LaDuke started the foundation as a way to “raise awareness and support for Native environmental issues and to develop financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities.” To do this, LaDuke and her group, interact directly with people and use music, the arts, media, and indigenous wisdom to help them realize how closely tethered human survival is with that of the Earth.
To put it visually, Honor the Earth describes the fate of the Earth as a crossroad of sorts – one miikina, or path, is well-worn but scorched, another path is green. According to the group, embarking on the scorched path would be to continue extracting resources from the Earth faster than we can replace them, including removing mountain tops for foreign coal, extreme mining in the Great Lakes region, fracking and tar sands extraction, to name a few. Through rallies, petitions, and conferences, LaDuke and her group have stood up against those looking to continue these destructive actions.
Learn More About Winona
Considering LaDuke’s approach for raising awareness, it’s no surprise that she will be speaking at the ENDOTREND Festival, an event based in Denver that will use art and interactive components to engage and inform people about the issues facing the environment and animals while at the same time, teaching them how they can use their everyday choices – from the food they eat to the goods they buy – to make a positive impact on the world around them. LaDuke and the folks over at the ENDOTREND Festival are spreading the same message: the Earth needs our help and it is our duty to help her…fast.
ENDOTREND will be taking place Saturday, October, 1st at the McNichols Civic Center Building in Denver, Colorado. To learn more about purchasing tickets, click here.
Your ticket to ENDOTREND goes to support the amazing organizations in Tindakan’s Beneficiary Alliance while entering you into the drawing to win a safari for two to Kenya hosted by Thin Green Line Foundation. But if you can’t make ENDOTREND you can still support this amazing solutions-based concept and be entered into the drawing for the safari as one doesn’t have to be present to win. The strength and success of this vision is only as strong as the support of people like you. Tindakan through its programs and revenue generating mechanisms like ENDOTREND are designed to create effectual and enduring change that can realize profound change now!
Image source: Winona LaDuke/Facebook