'We're Not Going Anywhere' An interview with Winona LaDuke.

AuthorTempus, Alexandra

Winona LaDuke seems like the perfect person to talk with about the myriad and connected threats we face as a democracy and as a people. Over her long career as an environmentalist and political activist, she has, as she puts it, "spent most of my life fighting stupid projects created by white guys in cities, from what I can figure. I've fought uranium mining, coal strip-mining projects, mega-dam projects, nuclear waste dumps--how many more stupid ideas can you come up with? Oh wait, they came up with another one!"

An enrolled member of the Mississippi Band of Anishinaabeg, LaDuke has become an internationally renowned social justice leader, dispensing indigenous wisdom in her many books and speaking engagements. She's garnered recognition from Time magazine and the National Women's Hall of Fame, and ran twice for Vice President with Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket. She is also founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and co-founder and executive director of the indigenous environmental group Honor The Earth.

These days, LaDuke splits her time between projects ranging from a solar panel manufacturing facility to hemp farming--all while serving as a leader in the fight against the extension of Line 3, which would run across 340 miles of northern Minnesota (see story, page 24). LaDuke, seasoned from a lifetime of battles against dire threats to humanity, simply calls it "the last tar sands pipeline."

Q: Is there one threat that you see as most pressing?

Winona LaDuke: I kind of look at it a little differently. I'm an economist by training, and I refer to this as Wiindigo economics--it's like the economics of a cannibal. So what you're dealing with is a system that behaves like an Ojibwe Wiindigo, a giant being that used to rampage through the north woods. I mostly consider myself a water protector. I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to protect our water. The threats are pretty far-reaching. I don't really buy into the "which one is the worst" and I also don't really wanna buy into making people more fearful. I want to really assess the situation, look at our own complicit nature in it.

Q: What can we learn from indigenous peoples and wisdom about facing these issues?

LaDuke: Our people killed the Wiindigo, and now we have to kill the Wiindigo. You've gotta change that mindset. People have to act like they plan on staying here. I consider myself not a patriot to the flag, but a patriot to the land. You have to take...

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