|Born||August 18, 1959|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Education||Harvard University (BA)|
Antioch University (MA)
Winona LaDuke (born August 18, 1959) is an American environmentalist, economist, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development. In a December 2018 interview she also described herself as an industrial hemp grower.
In 1996 and 2000, she ran for Vice President as the nominee of the Green Party of the United States, on a ticket headed by Ralph Nader. She is the executive director of Honor the Earth, a Native environmental advocacy organization that played an active role in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Winona (meaning "first daughter" in Dakota language) LaDuke was born in 1959 in Los Angeles, California, to Betty Bernstein and Vincent LaDuke (later known as Sun Bear). Her father was from the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, and her mother of Jewish European ancestry from the Bronx, New York. Though LaDuke spent some of her childhood in Los Angeles, she was primarily raised in Ashland, Oregon. Due to her father's heritage, she was enrolled with the Ojibwe Nation at an early age, but she did not live at White Earth, or on any other reservation, until 1982. She started work at White Earth after she graduated from college, when she got a job there as principal of the high school.
After her parents married, Vincent LaDuke worked as an actor in Hollywood, with supporting roles in Western movies, while Betty LaDuke completed her academic studies. The couple separated when Winona was five, and her mother took a position as an art instructor at Southern Oregon College, now Southern Oregon University at Ashland, which was then a small logging and college town near the California border. In the 1980s, LaDuke's father Vincent reinvented himself as a New Age spiritual leader and went by the name Sun Bear.
While growing up in Ashland, LaDuke attended public school and was on the debate team in high school. She attended Harvard University, where she became part of a larger group of Indian activists, and graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics (rural economic development). When LaDuke moved to White Earth she did not know the Ojibwe language, or many people, and was not quickly accepted. While working as the principal of the local Minnesota reservation high school she completed research for her master's thesis on the reservation's subsistence economy and became involved in local issues. She completed an M.A. in Community Economic Development through the distance-learning program of Antioch University.
While working as a principal at the high school, LaDuke became an activist. In 1985 she helped found the Indigenous Women's Network. She worked with Women of All Red Nations to publicize American forced sterilization of Native American women.
Next she became involved in the struggle to recover lands for the Anishinaabe. An 1867 treaty with the United States had originally provided a territory of more than 860,000 acres for the White Earth Indian Reservation. Under the Nelson Act of 1889, an attempt to have the Anishinaabe assimilate by adopting a European-American model of subsistence farming, communal tribal land had been allotted to individual households. The US classified any land in excess as surplus, allowing it to be sold to non-natives. In addition, many Anishinaabe sold their land individually over the years; these elements resulted in the tribe's losing control of most of its land. By the mid-20th century, the tribe held only one-tenth of the land within its reservation.
In 1989, LaDuke founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) in Minnesota with the proceeds of a human rights award from Reebok. The goal is to buy back land within the reservation that had been bought by non-Natives and to create enterprises that provide work to Anishinaabe. By 2000, the foundation had bought 1200 acres, which it held in a conservation trust for eventual cession to the tribe.
The non-profit is also working to reforest the lands and a revive cultivation of wild rice, long a traditional food. It markets that and other traditional products, including hominy, jam, buffalo sausage and other products. It has started an Ojibwe language program, a herd of buffalo, and a wind-energy project.
to create awareness and support for Native environmental issues and to develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities. Honor the Earth develops these resources by using music, the arts, the media, and Indigenous wisdom to ask people to recognize our joint dependency on the Earth and be a voice for those not heard.
In July 2019, LaDuke gave the Keynote address giving updates on efforts in stopping the "Sandpiper" pipeline, other pipelines, and other mega projects near their waters and through their Leach Lake Reservation regarding the Pipeline and urging everyone to be water protectors, stand up for rights to life, to survive, at the National Audubon Convention, Milwaukee, WS Opening Address. Winona LaDuke.
In 1996 and 2000, LaDuke ran as the vice-presidential candidate with Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket. She was not endorsed by any tribal council or other tribal government. LaDuke endorsed the Democratic Party ticket for the president and vice-president in 2004, 2008, and 2012.
In 2016, Robert Satiacum, Jr., a faithless elector from Washington cast his presidential vote for Native American activist, Faith Spotted Eagle; he then cast his vote for Vice President for Winona LaDuke, making her the first Native American woman to receive an Electoral College vote for Vice President.
WELRP has worked to revive cultivation and harvesting of wild rice, a traditional food of the Ojibwe people. It produces and sells traditional foods and crafts through its label, Native Harvest.
Honor the Earth is a national advocacy group encouraging public support and funding for Native environmental groups. With Honor the Earth, LaDuke works nationally and internationally on issues of climate change, renewable energy, sustainable development, food systems and environmental justice. Members of Honor the Earth were active in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
LaDuke has begun a 40-acre (16 ha) industrial hemp farm in Minnesota on the White Earth Indian Reservation, dedicated to growing hemp from different regions of the world, in addition to vegetables and tobacco. LaDuke has advocated for the growth of both marijuana and industrial hemp on tribal lands as moneymaking opportunities for tribal communities; this position is controversial, however, as when the Oglala Sioux Tribe attempted this they were raided by the DEA.
Her editorials and essays have been published in national and international media.
Television and film appearances:
LaDuke married Randy Kapashesit, a Cree leader, when working in opposition to a major hydroelectric project near Moose Factory, Ontario. They had two children together: a daughter Waseyabin (born 1988) and a son Ajuawak (born 1991). They divorced after several years.
LaDuke's current partner is Kevin Gasco. They had a child in 1999. She has also cared for a niece and nephew for an extended period. She and Gasco share her grandchildren.
On November 9, 2008, LaDuke's house in Ponsford, Minnesota, burned down while she was in Boston. No one was injured, but all of LaDuke's personal property burned, including her extensive library and indigenous art and artifact collection.