LaDuke speaks out for environment, women’s rights

Marlene Brueggmann

Winona LaDuke wants to teach her kids lessons about life that make sense. To her, public policy isn’t teaching the same things.

She wants to see change.

LaDuke, who ran for vice president on Ralph Nader’s Green Party ticket in 2000, spoke last night before a packed auditorium at Mass Media and Technology Hall. LaDuke, who is also a Native American activist, said that one of the reasons she is politically active is because she is a parent. Concerns about her children’s future make her more aware of environmental and political issues.

“I’m teaching my kids in my house (things) which I thought made some sense,” LaDuke said. “But I’m looking out there and seeing that public policy is totally the opposite.”

In her lecture “Last Standing Woman: A Sweeping Indictment of Racism and Oppression,” LaDuke talked about the reasons she is politically active, projects she is working on and environmental concerns.

LaDuke also spoke about her work as a community organizer on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, where she lives with her family.

English professor Kenneth King said that what attracted him to the lecture was that LaDuke ran for vice president with Nader.

King said LaDuke spoke truthfully and honestly about the situation in the U.S.

“If I had known it was so powerful I would have had some of my students here,” King said.

Molly Kerby, a freshman seminar instructor, was also drawn to the lecture because she remembered LaDuke from the presidential elections. Kerby hoped that the lecture appealed to the “environmental consciousness” of students.

LaDuke founded the White Earth Recovery program, a non-profit organization which works to recover land that was once used for Native American reservations.

LaDuke said that 90 percent of such land is in the hands of non-Native Americans.

“You cannot control your destiny if you cannot control your land,” LaDuke said. “You have no ability to control your economy, your way of life.”

She makes presentations to raise awareness of the issue.

“I talk at colleges around the country,” LaDuke said. “Some of you will go to Congress and you will know that the only compensation for land is land.”

Another of LaDuke’s concerns is the unhealthy influence of energy-producing companies on U.S. politics.

“We prostitute democracy” by giving energy so much power, she said.

Louisville junior Nicole Shaver attended the lecture for extra credit in one of her classes. Shaver said she was struck by LaDuke’s ideas about recovering democracy.

“I thought it was interesting hearing about her knowledge about being a mom and how she applied that to politics.” Shaver said.

Nicole Dorris, a junior from Mt. Juliet, Tenn., and Mackenzie Erd a junior from Chicago, attended the lecture and hosted a table for the Feminism Activism Network, a campus organization, outside the auditorium.

“She has a lot of things to say that need to be said,” Dorris said.

Erd thought the audience was engaged by LaDuke’s message.

“She had common sense,” Erd said. “It wasn’t all political ramble. People understood it and it touched them and inspired them.”

Reach Marlene Brueggemann at [email protected]