chose to research about a famous Native-American woman, Winona LaDuke. Winona
LaDuke is a well-known American Activist, environmentalist, economist, and a
writer. LaDuke once said, “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.” This quote brings
us back to a time in history when President Jackson passed The Indian Removal
Act on May 28, 1830 to negotiate with southern Indian tribes for their removal
to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for their lands.
History shows that the United States government has been trying to take away
the Native American peoples land, and they were successful in doing so by
killing thousands of Native American people and getting rid of their tribe.
(Library of Congress) In fact, the Native American people are still fighting a
battle to protect their land and culture in today’s society. LaDuke was born in
1959 and grew up in Los Angeles, California. She was a member of the Ojibwe
tribe. Her father was an actor in western films, as well as an Indian activist.
Her mother was a Jewish art professor. Winona graduated from Harvard in 1982
and received a degree in native economic development. Upon graduating from
Harvard, she moved to the White Earth Reservation in a poor, rural part of
northern Minnesota. LaDuke is well-known across many fields for her activism
and her writing. She is the executive director of both White Earth Land
Recovery Project, which she founded at White Earth Reservation in 1989, and
Honor the Earth. Her name became famous to the American people in the late
1990’s when she ran for Vice President as a Green Party member on a ticket
headed by Ralph Nader. She’s also an internationally renowned activist working
on issues of sustainable development, renewable energy and food systems where
she lives and work on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota. (Deanna
There are thousand different types
of Native American tribes throughout the United States. A few examples are
Onondaga Nation, Seneca Nation of Indians, and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.
LaDuke is from the Chippewa tribe also referred as the Ojibwe tribe. The
Chippewa (Objiwe) tribe originally occupied a vast tract of lands around Lake
Huron and Lake Superior and south in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota when
their lifestyle was of the Northeast woodland cultural group. They were
hunters, fishers and farmers. Their fierce, warlike reputation and their sheer
numbers made the Chippewa one of the most feared tribes. They extended their
territories across a massive area and many adopted the lifestyle of the buffalo
hunters of the Great Plains. The Chippewa tribe spoke in a related dialect of
the Algonquian language. The Chippewa tribe were dictated by climate and
customs. The type of clothing they wore were breechcloths in the summer and in
cold climates they wore fringed, decorated tunics, high moccasins and leggings
and turbans of soft fur. The Chippewa was a well-known Native American tribe.
The government was very insistent in getting rid of the Native American tribes and
their culture, in order to get their land. They killed thousands of buffalo
which was the Native American main source of food. The government believed in
this idea because without food a majority of the native people will died and
they would gain access to their land.
Winona LaDuke’s All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life documents the
historic pillaging and exploitation of Native Americans then and today.
Throughout the book, Winona also mentioned over the last 150 years the earth
has witnessed the largest extinction of species since the Ice Age as well as
the loss of more than 2,000 nations of native peoples in the Western
Hemisphere. In other words, the government was very successful in achieving
their goals in getting rid of the Native American people and gaining access to some
of the Native American people’s land.
One of LaDuke’s famous quotes is, “Someone
needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist,
and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a
corporation a terrorist.” This quote really stood out to me because LaDuke is a
water protector who has spent a large part of her life battling corporations
who seek to build pipelines through the lands of Native American people. The
Native American people are currently facing this situation where the government
is trying to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to the Camp of The Sacred
Stones, “the (DAPL) is proposed to transport 450,000 barrels per day of bakken crude
oil (which is fracked and highy volatile) from the land of North Dakota to
Patoka, Illinois”. The Native American people do not want the government to
build this pipeline because it would impact all citizens, threatening wildlife,
water quality, and land integrity. In addition, oil will likely be transported
to the Gulf Coast and exported; this pipeline will not create energy
independence. Winona LaDuke’s organization Honor the Earth was created to help
the Native American people fight situations like the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Honor the Earth organization focuses on addressing climate change, extreme
mining and fossil fuels, outreach and education on tribal policy and economics
and in a focused regranting program.
famous quote from Laduke that sparked my interest is, “Power is not brute force
and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. It is what your
ancestors, your old people gave you. Power is in the earth; it is in your
relationship to the earth.” I found this quote to be very interesting because
the way the Native American people refer to power is a different meaning from
the way non-native people thinks of power. The Native American people refer to
power in a more religious way. Winona mentioned that power is what your
ancestors, your old people gave you. One way in which power is passed on from
generation to generation is oral tradition in the Native American culture. Oral
tradition is the passing down of stories and tradition through word of mouth.
An example of oral tradition in the Native American culture was seen in the
film Thunderheart. In this film an elderly
man known as Grandpa Sam explains to Ray Levoi about his father’s purpose and
role in the Wounded Knee Massacre.
conclusion, Winona LaDuke is a well-known Native American female. She’s in the
forefront when it comes to standing with her fellow Native American people to
protect their rights and culture. I’m truly honored that I had the opportunity
to take this class. I learned a lot of information about the Native American
people, especially the well-known Native American women.