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Indigenous Activist/Scholar Winona LaDuke says Making America Great would be growing 8,000 varieties of corn

March 3, 2017

Last night Indigenous Scholar/Activist Winona LaDuke spoke to a crowd at the GVSU downtown campus as part of the annual Women and the Environment event.winona_slider

This was no lecture. It was a series of story tell and truth bombs.

LaDuke began by saying that in her tradition there are two paths; one that is scorched, where devastation has occurred and one that is less worn and green, because it is a path that fewer have taken.

The Native activist also pointed out the need to reflect on the future. “We should always be looking to the future and asking, what will we look like and who will be in charge?

That future depends upon us and what we chose to do. LaDuke said that right now, there are places near her home on the White Earth Reservation where you can still drink from the lakes. This is the future that we can have.

Winona then showed a slide of a canoe that had many people in it, saying, “We are all in this together. Sitting Bull said lets put our minds together to see what future we can make for our children.”

Another slide she presented to the audience had a statement we have all become familiar with over the past year, Making America Great Again. However, what she meant by this is when we have 8,000 varieties of corn that are being grown, corn that is nutrient rich and resilient. She said that American was great when we had 50 million buffalo and when had a billion passenger pigeons in the sky.

The next slide she showed spoke volumes. There were two photos, one with Sitting Bull and the other was of Col. George Armstrong Custer. Under Sitting Bulls image it said Organic and under Custer’s image it said GMO. The slide needed no explanation.9781552669594_300_464_90

LaDuke then talked about how Enbridge had proposed a pipeline through her reservation, the Sand Piper, right through their wild rice harvesting grounds. She said they forced the state of Minnesota to hold public hearing and to get the government to require an Environmental Impact statement.  Winona said, “We rode on (on horses) the route of the proposed pipeline for 4 years and then Enbridge pulled out!

After that Enbridge bought 28% of the Dakota Access Pipeline. LaDuke then reflected on the realities of North Dakota, about how many people have left the state and how depopulated it was. She said that the Sierra Club has one person for all of North Dakota and the ACLU has one person for both North and South Dakota.

standing_rockInitially the pipeline was scheduled to go near the city of Bismark, which of course said no. So what they did was to put it through Standing Rock. North Dakota then became militarized. She showed a slide with a Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle, an MRAP that you can see in the upper right corner. LaDuke said that the militarization of Standing Rock also included the use of water cannons, pepper spray, and sound machines that would disorient people. Winona then said, “Standing Rock was our Selma moment.”

There are currently 750 people are facing charges because they dared to stand against the pipeline at Standing Rock. 8LaDuke said there was a survey done in North Dakota and 82% of the jury pool believes that Water Protectors are guilty. “Maybe what we need are Freedom Riders to go to North Dakota to sit in the court rooms,” LaDuke said, with yet another reference to the Freedom Movement of the 60s.

The speaker then said that we suffer from Ecological Amnesia, which is when we don’t remember what we once had.

Our economy is based on consumption. All we do is consume. We are like a T-Rex, consuming like crazy and leaving nothing but destruction behind.”

LaDuke then made the link to our consumption of fossil fuels and how that related to addiction. Someone once told her that they would rather have oil delivered on a railway instead of pipelines. LaDuke responded by saying, “Would you rather have some heroin delivered by pipeline or rail? The problem with being an addict is that you end up doing bad things. Being an addict is like going to your drug dealer to get policy written. This is how much influence the oil companies have over policy.

Forever the economist, LaDuke then breaks down the money spent on defending the pipeline at Standing Rock and how that money could have been spent on renewable energy and retro fitting people’s homes.

She talked about the Dine solar project and about the need for all of us to work on a local food economy. She told the story of when she was studying at Harvard and her father came to see her and said, “I know you are a really smart person, but I don’t want to hear about your philosophy unless you can grow corn.

LaDuke concluded her comments by giving some examples of how we fight back and how we make the changes we want to see in our communities.screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-8-10-04-am

She said that what justice looks like for Standing Rock is getting wind turbines, solar power,  supporting local food, energy efficient homes, a new hospital for the people. This is what the people need. Not a pipeline.

LaDuke showed slides of what they are doing in their community. Here is an image of a project, where artists have been coming to paint homes in such a way as to celebrate their history and their resistance.


Here is a picture of solar panels that are connected to her home and how so much of this could be done with people. In the end she said, “be passionate about what you do. Find out what your gifts are and utilize them. Live your life intentionally and with integrity.”

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