Winona LaDuke speaks on culture and sustainability

Abby Schubach

Winona LaDuke, Native American activist of the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, greeted her audience on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 1 in her native language of Ojibwe.

She began her talk, entitled “Creating a Multicultural Democracy: Religion, Culture and Identity in America,” by informing audience members that the Anishinaabe have just moved into the month of the “Freezing Over Moon.”

Before becoming the director of the environmental White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, she authored four novels and is currently working on her fifth. LaDuke, with degrees from both Harvard and Antioch Universities, ran for vice president of the United States in both 1996 and 2000 as the nominee of the United States Green Party, on a ticket headed by Ralph Nader.

LaDuke challenged her audience to consider a society that reflects a different worldview than one “based on emperors,” as exemplified by our naming of the calendar months and famed lands. She asserted that “[we] belong to the land, rather than the land belongs to [us].”

LaDuke continued to speak of the linearity of our economy, rather than the Native American ideal of a cyclical economy. If we keep producing toxic waste, she noted, we simply wont have any resources left.

“A society based on conquest cannot be sustained,” emphasized LaDuke.

She showed a slide depicting the magnitude at which a mine digs deep into the earth and declared that this land, according to the Anishinaabe perspective, is a child of the earth. The solution to this destruction has already been partly mapped out, LaDuke affirmed, by Native American culture.

Instead of quantifying success on the basis of Gross Domestic Product, Gross National Product and levels of consumption, as the federal government does, LaDuke suggested that we need to look for “access to natural resources, health, education levels and relationships.”

LaDuke has already worked to rebuild, or in her words, “souped up on steroids,” a used wind turbine from California that powers a school on her reservation. The skills to produce this sustainable equipment came from a retired war veteran with a master’s degree in engineering. Lawrence will soon be taking advantage of this technology with the wind turbine at Björklunden.

LaDuke believes that “students should seek opportunities to broaden their thinking beyond the four walls of a college” and to apply their learned critical thinking skills.

Freshman Sarah Jane Rennick was inspired from the presentation and supposed that “opening our minds to a different, multi-cultural point of view could make dramatic changes in the way we run our lives.”

LaDuke presented her audience with a prophecy from her Anishinaabe teachings: “We would arrive at a time where we would be conscience again and we would be posed with two paths, one path was well worn and it was scorched, one path was not well worn but it was green.”

She added, “That is where we are as Americans.”