Winona LaDuke

author and activist

Winona LaDuke (August 18, 1959) is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) economist, environmentalist, writer and industrial hemp grower, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development.

Winona LaDuke in 2008

Quotes edit

1990s edit

  • I will argue that native societies' knowledge surpasses the scientific and social knowledge of the dominant society in its ability to provide information and a management style for environmental planning. Frankly, these native societies have existed as the only example of sustainable living in North America for more than 300 years.
    • "Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Environmental Futures" (1994)
  • "Minobimaatisiiwin," or the "good life," is the basic objective of the Anishinaabeg and Cree³ people who have historically, and to this day, occupied a great portion of the north-central region of the North American continent. An alternative interpretation of the word is "continuous rebirth." This is how we traditionally understand the world and how indigenous societies have come to live within natural law. Two tenets are essential to this paradigm: cyclical thinking and reciprocal relations and responsibilities to the Earth and creation.
    • "Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Environmental Futures" (1994)
  • Rarely is there money in the federal bureaucracy for the cultural and environmental needs of the Natives. I find it ironic however, that federal monies always miraculously appear to study and develop coal strip miners, uranium mines and nuclear waste dumps on Reservations.
    • As quoted in All Our Relations Native Struggle For Land & Life (1999), pg.101

Speech at NGO Forum (1995) edit

In The Winona LaDuke Reader (2002)

  • The Earth is our Mother. From her we get our life, and our ability to live. It is our responsibility to care for our Mother, and in caring for our Mother, we care for ourselves.
  • What gives corporations like Conoco, Shell, Exxon, Daishowa, ITT, Rio Tinto Zinc, and the World Bank the right which supersedes or is superior to my human right to live on my land, or that of my family, my community, my nation, our nations, and to us as women? What law gives that right to them? Not any law of the Creator or of Mother Earth. Is that right contained within their wealth? Is that right contained within their wealth, which was historically acquired immorally, unethically through colonialism and imperialism and paid for with the lives of millions of people, species of plants, and entire ecosystems? They should have no such right. And we clearly, as women and as indigenous peoples, demand and will recover that right-the right of self-determination, to determine our own destiny and that of our future generations.
  • Today, on a worldwide scale, we remain in the same situation as one hundred years ago, only with less land and fewer people.
  • Simply stated, if we can no longer nurse our children, if we can no longer bear children, and if our bodies are wracked with poisons, we will have accomplished little in the way of determining our destiny or improving our conditions.
  • Consumption causes the commodification of the sacred, the natural world, cultures, children, and women. And unless we speak and take meaningful action to address the high levels of consumption, we will never have any security for our individual human rights as women.
  • This is not a struggle for women of the dominant society in so-called "first world" countries to have equal pay and equal status if that pay and status continues to be based on a consumption model that is unsustainable. It is a struggle to recover our status as Daughters of the Earth.

"A Seventh Generation Agreement" (1996) edit

In The Winona LaDuke Reader (2002)

  • The framers of the U.S. Constitution envisioned life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in that document, but had little idea of what was to come. Since that time we've seen the land of the continent change dramatically-culturally, politically, ecologically, and economically. Today, the social and technological foundation of the society has, in fact, outstripped the law itself. It's time to amend the Constitution to preserve "the commons" for all of us. It's time for a Common Property, or Seventh Generation, Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • The preamble to the U.S. Constitution declares as one of its purposes, to "secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity." Should not those blessings include air fit to breathe, water decent enough to drink, and land which is as beautiful for our descendants as it was for our ancestors?
  • American public policy has come to reflect short-term interests, fiscal years, "deficit reduction" programs, and is increasingly absent of any intergenerational perspective. That long-term perspective is crucial to our well-being and a valuable role for democratic government.
  • Public policy is lagging behind our ability to destroy ourselves.
  • If private property has found safe haven in the Fifth Amendment, where is common property equally protected?
  • The rights of the people to use and enjoy air, water, and sunlight are essential to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These most basic human rights have been impaired by those who discharge toxic substances into the air or water, thereby taking life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness. These rights are also damaged by those who cause a crash of our fish or destroy our oceans. Such "taking" must be recognized as a fundamental wrong in our system of laws, just as a taking of private property is a fundamental wrong.
  • It's hard to imagine those who framed the U.S. Constitution could have imagined the U.S. at the millennium. It's harder yet to imagine what we'll pass on, if we don't think of the seventh generation from now.

Last Standing Woman (1997) edit

  • There is a peculiar kind of hatred in the northwoods, a hatred born of living with with three generations of complicity in the theft of lives and land. What is worse is that each day, those who hold this position of privilege must come face to face with those whom they have dispossessed. To others who rightfully should share in the complicity and the guilt, Indians are far away and long ago. But in reservation border towns, Indians are ever-present.
  • the poverty of dispossession is almost overwhelming. So is the poverty of complicity and guilt. That shame combined with guilt and a feeling of powerlessness, creates an atmosphere in which hatred buds, blossoms and flourishes. The hatred passes from father to son and from mother to daughter. Each generation feels the hatred and it penetrates deeper to justify a myth. Norman Grist suffered from Indian Hating Disease. He had it bad, knotted tightly and pungently in his gut

All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life (1999) edit

Introduction edit
  • Native American teachings describe the relations all around-animals, fish, trees, and rocks as our brothers, sisters, uncles, and grandpas. Our relations to each other, our prayers whispered across generations to our relatives, are what bind our cultures together.
  • There is a direct relationship between the loss of cultural diversity and the loss of biodiversity. Wherever Indigenous peoples still remain, there is also a corresponding enclave of biodiversity.
  • While Native peoples have been massacred and fought, cheated, and robbed of their historical lands, today their lands are subject to some of the most invasive industrial interventions imaginable.
  • In the final analysis, the survival of Native America is fundamentally about the collective survival of all human beings. The question of who gets to determine the destiny of the land, and of the people who live on it-those with the money or those who pray on the land-is a question that is alive throughout society.
"The Seventh Generation" edit
  • The preamble to the U.S. Constitution declares its intent to be to "secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves, and our posterity." In reality, U.S. laws have been transformed by corporate interests to cater to elite interests in society.
  • The challenge at the cusp of the millennium is to transform human laws to match natural laws, not vice versa. And to correspondingly transform wasteful production and voracious consumption. America and industrial society must move from a society based on conquest to one steeped in the practice of survival. In order to do that, we must close the circle. The linear nature of industrial production itself, in which labor and technology turn natural wealth into consumer products and wastes, must be transformed into a cyclical system.
  • There is, in many Indigenous teachings, a great optimism for the potential to make positive change. Change will come. As always, it is just a matter of who determines what that change will be.
  • The rights of the people to use and enjoy air, water, and sunlight are essential to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These basic human rights have been impaired by those who discharge toxic substances into the air, water, and land. Contaminating the commons must be recognized as a fundamental wrong in our system of laws, just as defacing private property is wrong. On that basis, the Seventh Generation Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares, "The right of citizens of the U.S. to enjoy and use air, water, sunlight, and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for use by the future generations."

Speech (March 1999) edit

In The Winona LaDuke Reader (2002)

  • I always greet people in my language because I believe that cultural diversity is as beautiful as biodiversity, and that is reflected in language.
  • I am fully aware of how little an American education teaches you about Native people.
  • While I was introduced as an activist, I consider myself more a concerned parent. To be a mother in this day and age, you have to be concerned with a wide array of issues.
  • I haven't seen anyone improve on the tepee-you can have a fire inside it, and you can love it.
  • A house is more than a shelter: It is home, it is something that reflects you.
  • In Minnesota, they say we made nice about it a long time ago. They say, "You Indians should get over it." Well that's really nice to say when you are holding all the assets. Why are Indian people the poorest people in this country in every economic or social statistic at the bottom or the top of where you don't want to be? Is that because we're stupid? No. It's because we have structural poverty enforced by intergenerational appropriation of our wealth. That's the reality.
  • Forests are worth more standing than cut.
  • I spend a lot of time fighting with county commissioners because they look at my reservation and refer to it as timber resources; I call it a forest. It's a very different way of thinking. I do not look out there and see timber resources; I see a forest. That does not mean that I'm opposed to logging. It does mean that I'm opposed to lazy logging, which is what I call clear-cutting. You can selectively cut in a beautiful manner, and leave a forest standing.
  • Just because the coal exists, do they have to strip mine it? Just because the water flows, does that mean they have to dam it? Just because the trees are there, does that mean they have to cut them? At what point do we restrain ourselves in this society so that something is left because it has value on its own?
  • Sometimes when you ask people to consume less, to not use it and toss it, there's this puzzled look like, "That sounds painful. That sounds like I'm not going to really get what I want, and I have a right to it." That's what we have to deconstruct.
  • There should be beauty in "process," whether it is harvesting with intelligence, whether it is the use of recycled materials, or whether it is observing energy efficiency.

2000s edit

  • We have a lot of teachings and language about how a people can live a thousand years in the same place and not destroy things. The phrase anishinaabe akiing, for example, means the land to which the people belong. It’s not the same thing as private property or even common property. It has to do with a relationship that a people has to a place—a relationship that reaffirms the sacredness of that place…
  • And in our covenant with the Creator, we understand that it is not about managing their behavior—it’s about managing ours, because we’re the ones who cause extinction of species. We’re the youngest species, and we don’t necessarily have the most smarts. We’ve bungled up along the way, and we acknowledge these mistakes in our stories and in our history as Indian people. The question is whether you have the humility and the commitment to get some learning out of these experiences.

"Reflections on the Republic of Dubya" (2001) edit

In The Winona LaDuke Reader (2002)

  • The first 100 days of the Bush Administration have been an unbelievable nightmare.
  • George W Bush is definitely the worse of two evils, to use the vernacular of the Green Party. Few of us thought it possible for him to be in office today, and we are still stunned.
  • The largest party in America: the more than 50% of the American electorate who don't vote
  • It's hard to tell people to vote when their votes don't seem to count.
  • I pledge myself to raise my voice, raise my vote, raise every ounce of strength I have to keep up our struggle and to continue it all-demand that votes get counted, struggle for a set of systems that work, and work to protect Mother Earth.

Speech at UW Madison (2001) edit

In The Winona LaDuke Reader (2002)

  • "Akiing" is the word for land in our language, and in the indigenous concept of land ownership or the Anishinaabeg concept of land ownership, it is much more a concept that we belong to that land than the land belongs to us.
  • There was a view at that time which is, to a great extent, maintained today: that only those Christian nations had rights to the land. That only those who were in the folds of the church and were in the folds of Christ had rights to the land, and the rest of the vast majority of the world, who were not Christians, did not have rights to land on par with those who were Christians. That is why the church became a "handmaiden to colonialism."
  • The Catholic Church was one of the architects of colonialism as we have come to know it today, because it provided the philosophical and religious underpinnings through which colonialism could continue and be justified in the eyes of God.
  • How come there are so many mountains named after small men? Who were these guys? Why did they get these mountains named after them? You go out there and these little puny men have mountains named after them, and some of these men were really, really bad guys.
  • In this day and age, are we going to name towns after Hitler? Probably not but, you know, you have a number of towns, cities, and colleges, named after guys who were basically mass murderers. And it is really offensive as indigenous people, but it is also offensive humanitarians to consider that we continue to aggrandize individuals whose crimes are crimes against humanity.
  • There is this saying in Indian country that I think is true, which is that, a long time ago, when the white people came, the Indians had the land and the white people had the Bibles. And now the Indians have the Bibles and the white people have the land.
  • The reality is that there is a direct relationship between the "development" of the United States and the "underdevelopment" of Native America. Just as much as there is a direct relationship between the development of Europe and the underdevelopment of Africa; and the development of the United States and the underdevelopment of Africa. Some get rich and some get poor. Some take other's land, natural resources, and people, and some are left to deal with the consequences of it. Which is the history.
  • The reality is that the founding fathers were land speculators. The fact is that you couldn't vote in this country if you did not own land, and that basically you had to be a white man who owned land. Now how did they get that land? They basically had to steal it from someone, and that would probably be the Indians.
  • I have heard that a number of times in my life. "You guys should get over it, it happened a long time ago." You cannot get over it if you are still in the same circumstance as a consequence of what happened a hundred years ago. You cannot get over it if you are still in exactly the same relationship as you were a hundred years ago. Some try to keep their trees and some try to take them.
  • The white man, or the American government, has a way of saying they are sorry, which is to pay you. That's pretty much their approach. Now what our elders have said in our reservation and in Indian country in general is that actually the only compensation for land is land. That you cannot pay us with money that you took, that you made off of our land. That's kind of the analysis that goes behind that. Because the only thing that is actually of value to our community is the land itself. It is not the compensation.

2010s edit

  • Within a decade of the completion of the La Grande Complex, signs of environmental disasters have become obvious. Massive flooding had once again leached methyl Mercury from the soil, changing an inorganic Mercury compound in the water into organic mercury.
    • LaDuke (2015) All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life , P. 62
  • Winona LaDuke became involved in Native American issues after meeting Jimmy Durham, a well known Cherokee activist, while she was attending Harvard University. At the age of 18, she spoke in front of the United Nations regarding Native American rights and has remained one of the most prominent voices for American Indian economic and environmental concerns.
    • As quoted in All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. (2015), p.225
  • A Navajo woman said to me, “In our old mythologies and stories, they talked of monster slayers.” She says we need a new generation of monster slayers. I think that’s such a powerful analogy, and it’s so true. It’s a David and Goliath moment, and we’ve got to hang in there because they are weakening…
  • It’s so ironic and so tragic, this dichotomy between the large oil corporations and the people who have always stood for their land. To all of us it was a Selma moment, that’s how I look at it. And if you contextualize it in the history of American movements and social movements, Standing Rock is a Selma moment when we all woke up, we all woke up and said, “This is what it looks like on the front lines.”…

Interview with Democracy Now (2018) edit

  • I’m looking down the barrel of a very big pipeline, which is a $7 billion boondoggle of stranded assets. We’ll talk about that later. But I’m looking down the pipeline, you know, at the barrel of this pipeline, and I’m looking: What could $7 billion do in Minnesota? What could it do to make a New Green Deal?
  • I didn’t really like this economy too much. Didn’t work out too well for my people, you know.
  • So the next economy has to be something that reaffirms our relationship to the Earth and gives us a shot. That, to me, looks like a lot of local food, organic food.
  • You know, you don’t need some guys to put something in the sky to keep the carbon out of the sky. You need to put it in the soil. And so you need organic agriculture. That’s what we’re doing in my community.
  • What I want to do is to rebuild the hemp industry in Indian country. And I want us at the table, not on the menu. I want us to be in the leadership of this next economy, because we have a lot of territory upon which you can grow hemp. And we can rebuild the light manufacturing industry in this country.
  • To the Native community, (Trump)’s kind of like the new incarnation of Andrew Jackson: you know, bad president for Indian people, bad president for everybody. But, you know, to us, and to be super honest, I mean, we don’t have a lot of experience with great presidents. You know, what we have experience with is that we’re going to fight this out, and we’re going to make the next economy. We’re going to make our future. That’s what self-determination is about.
  • Standing Rock was an example of regulatory capture, when your whole system is controlled by corporations
  • Social movements and lawyers are who stop pipelines. Social movements and lawyers.
  • Lakes that you can still drink from. That's where I live. And that’s what this battle is about. It’s about, you know: Can we protect that?
  • What we need is a New Deal that builds infrastructure for people, not for oil companies. As I said, $7 billion that is for an oil company pipeline, that could be spent much better.
  • There’s a price to destroying boreal forest.
  • The tar sands is a boreal forest. You know, and you turn something that is the oxygen of the North—I mean, the boreal forest of northern Canada—of Canada is the equivalent of the lungs. It’s the Amazon of the North. It’s the Amazon of the North. And that is what is being destroyed by the tar sands. Wetland—this is just going through our wetlands. The value of a wetland—you know, I’m an economist by training, but how do you value a wetland for what it does for Mother Earth and for the planet and for your water and for insects and for where the wild things are?
  • As I look out there, this is the time of, you know, catastrophes of biblical proportions, if we are going to call it that. You know, to the south, you have the great floods. To the west, the entire West Coast is on fire. To the north, the ice is melting, and polar bears are eating each other.
  • One time I was sitting in Sitka, Alaska—did you ever get a chance to go there? Beautiful. Like sometimes you just go someplace. I was at a writers’ workshop. I was in Sitka, Alaska, and I was watching—you know, the eagles were capturing the salmon that had come in. And so there was like eagles diving down into the ocean, and, you know, the salmon. And there were bears. And I looked out there, and I saw this cruise ship coming into the left of my vision. And it came in, and I was like, “Oh, I don’t like that.” The cruise ship came in, and then I watched that cruise ship turn a 180 and go exactly back out. And that’s basically what we’ve got to do. You know, we have to make the next economy, and that next economy is going to be green. That next economy is going to have people like me making decisions. I’d like to be an architect for the next economy. I didn’t like the last one.

2020s edit

Interview with Democracy Now (2020) edit

  • Indian people know how to take care of this land.
  • The public lands and the Native lands should be protected for the public and the Natives, not necessarily some mining corporations.
  • Deb (Haaland)’s history here with a vision that she and other leaders have had in Washington with a just transition and the Green New Deal is exactly what we need in this country. We don’t need any more fossil fuels. We’re done. We’re done. What we need is the vision and a just transition.
  • I think that we should be done with appointing corporate heads to run parts of our government. They have enough influence already.

Interview with Democracy Now (2021) edit

  • Enbridge was 28% of DAPL. And when the federal court ordered them to close down the pipe, they said no. When the state of Michigan ordered them to close down a pipe this last May, they said no. So they’re just trying to continue their egregious behavior.
  • It’s so tragic that, you know, on one hand, the Biden administration is like, “We are going to have Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but we’re still going to smash you in northern Minnesota and smash the rest of the country.” Same thing, you know, Klobuchar and Smith, the two Minnesota senators, shameful their lack of courage, not only for Indigenous people but for the planet
  • Enbridge and the Walz administration are climate criminals.
  • The Biden administration needs to stand up. You know, on one hand, I’m looking at Joe Biden, and I’m so grateful. Like, Bears Ears, that was the right thing to do, you know, to get back and to be the people that are supporting Indigenous people and Land Back...You know, 80 million acres of national parks stolen from Indian people, let’s start returning those, too, along with creating new national parks. We could just start returning land that was stolen. That would be a great step.
  • No sane person supports this pipeline. Only people who want to take oil money from Canadian multinationals support this pipeline.
  • If you appoint Indian people, don’t just make them pretty Indian people that sit in your administration. Let them do their job. Indigenous thinking is what we need in the colonial administration. That’s when change happens.
  • Seventy-five percent of the world’s mining corporations are Canadian, and all through Latin America there’s human rights violations.

Quotes about Winona LaDuke edit

  • In her book The Militarization of Indian Country, Anishinaabe activist and writer Winona LaDuke analyzes the continuing negative effects of the military on Native Americans, considering the consequences wrought on Native economy, land, future, and people, especially Native combat veterans and their families. Indigenous territories in New Mexico bristle with nuclear weapons storage, and Shoshone and Paiute territories in Nevada are scarred by decades of aboveground and underground nuclear weapons testing. The Navajo Nation and some New Mexico Pueblos have experienced decades of uranium strip mining, the pollution of water, and subsequent deadly health effects. "I am awed by the impact of the military on the world and on Native America," LaDuke writes. "It is pervasive."
  • There is no Indigenous group in the US whose relationships to ancestral foods has not been severely impacted, if not completely disrupted. Some of these are well known, having been extensively documented, and no one has written more powerfully or prolifically on the issue than Winona LaDuke. LaDuke is the quintessential Indigenous eco-warrior, making her mark in larger Indigenous environmental justice conversation not only as a researcher but also as an activist who has worked tirelessly for decades in her own White Earth reservation community to protect Ojibwe access to wild rice, known to them as manoomin...Another high-profile issue LaDuke has written about is the disruption of the Klamath nation's relationship with salmon and sucker fish.
    • Dina Gilio-Whitaker As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock (2019)
  • We ended up having a long, wide-ranging conversation about the difference between an extractivist mind-set (which Leanne Simpson describes bluntly as "stealing" and taking things "out of relationship") and a regenerative one. She described Anishinaabe systems as "a way of living designed to generate life, not just human life but the life of all living things." This is a concept of balance, or harmony, common to many Indigenous cultures and is often translated to mean "the good life." But Simpson told me that she preferred the translation "continuous rebirth," which she first heard from fellow Anishinaabe writer and activist Winona LaDuke.
    • Naomi Klein This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014)

External links edit

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