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WINONA LADUKE Printer Friendly Page
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  • American Indian activist
  • Ralph Nader's vice presidential running mate in the 1996 and 2000 elections
  • Opposes the Iraq War
  • Opposes welfare reform
  • Supports race-, ethnicity-, and sex-based preferences in employment and education



Winona LaDuke is an American Indian activist who focuses her attention mainly on environmental, women's, and children's issues. A resident of the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, she is the founder and campaign director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, whose mission is to regain possession of "the original land base of the White Earth Reservation" for the Anishinaabeg Indians. She is also the founder and co-chair of the Indigenous Women's Network.

LaDuke was born in 1959 in Los Angeles. Her Jewish mother was a university art professor, her father an Anishinabeg Indian activist. Laduke told High Times magazine that “some of my most poignant childhood memories are of going to anti-war marches with my parents.” When she was 18, LaDuke became the youngest person to ever speak in front of the United Nations, lecturing the international body on American Indian issues. 

LaDuke graduated from Harvard in 1982 with a degree in “native economic development.” In the 1990s she became involved with the Green Party and was Ralph Nader’s vice presidential running mate in both the 1996 and 2000 elections. In 2004 she endorsed Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic presidential primaries; when his campaign failed, she endorsed John Kerry. In 2008 she endorsed Barack Obama for U.S. President.

LaDuke views the United States as a war-obsessed nation that abuses the natural environment. In an August 2000 campaign speech, she remarked:

“I believe the fundamental challenge we have as people who live on Mother Earth here -- as patriots perhaps, not always to the flag, but always to the land.... We are a country which spends so much money on the military we have become insane. We have a certifiably insane country. We don’t need any more F22 fighters. We have no enemies. Nobody is going to beat us. In fact, we are defending countries that already have a big military.”

In April 2003 Laduke said that the Iraq War was "not a just war," and that it constituted a "flagrant violatio[n] of international law." "I am not a fan of Saddam Hussein," she explained. "He is seemingly an evil man, but honestly, I can not tell [discern] the truth anymore, since the media biases are so overwhelming and our motives have become so ulterior." Added LaDuke:

“The United States tolerates some dictators and mass murderers quite well. Looking aside when a million people were killed in Rwanda and ignoring the genocide in East Timor and Tibet, would be a couple of examples of American selective amnesia. Our interests in human rights quite often seem to intersect with our oil interests."

LaDuke has called the 1996 welfare-reform bill (which was intended to move large numbers of people off the welfare rolls and into jobs) “a pretty anti-woman piece of legislation.”

She supports race-, ethnicity-, and sex-based preferences in employment and education.

She advocates the closing of the Fort Benning, Georgia-based School of the Americas (or the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), which was established to fight communism and promote democracy in Central and South America.

She believes that “Indigenous Nations” should be represented at the United Nations.

Laduke is an impassioned opponent of "environmental racism," which she defines as a phenomenon that forces particular groups to "bear a disproportionate amount of responsibility of waste and toxins in their ecosystems for a society." "Environmental racism," she adds, "is a symptom of the illness of the society, which has to do with industrial thinking and which is incapable of dealing with the native. We inherit this but it is a result of a long process of colonialism in which we still exist and still live."

In 1992 LaDuke collaborated with Professor Ward Churchill to write the paper “Native North America: The Political Economy of Radioactive Colonialism,” alleging that the U.S. federal government was dumping radioactive waste into the ground on Indian reservations.

LaDuke has written extensively on environmental and Native American issues. She is the author of All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life; and Last Standing Woman, a novel about an American Indian reservation's struggle to restore its culture.

In 1988 LaDuke received the Reebok Human Rights Award. In 1994 she was nominated by Time magazine as one of America’s fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age. In 1996 she received the Thomas Merton Award (other winners include Howard Zinn, Daniel Berrigan, Helen Caldicott, Dick Gregory, Studs Terkel, Amy Goodman, and Marian Wright Edelman). In 1997 she won the Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year Award.

 

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