Winona LaDuke is a Native American activist, environmentalist, economist, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development. She is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi and the executive director of Honor the Earth, “where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for frontline native environmental groups.”
After obtaining her B.A. in native economic development from Harvard in 1982, LaDuke moved to White Earth, a Native American Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. “There, she founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project to reclaim Anishinaabeg lands that had been promised by an 1867 federal treaty but had been slowly stolen and parceled by the US government at the behest of the logging industry.” Although it was largely a process of uphill legal battles, LaDuke persevered, securing grants to aid White Earth in reclaiming 1,000 acres with the hope of acquiring 30,000 more in the next 15 years.
“Today she is known as a voice for [Native] American economic and environmental concerns throughout the United States and internationally.” An expert in the fields of culturally-based sustainable development, renewable energy, and food systems, LaDuke works nationally and internationally to protect indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering.
Her list of accolades is extensive and includes being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007, being awarded the Thomas Merton Award in 1996, as well as the prestigious International Slow Food Award for Biodiversity in 2003, being named Ms. Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1997, and winning the Reebok Human Rights Award in 1988, using the proceeds from this award to found the White Earth Land Recovery Project in 1989. Since then LaDuke has served as board member for both the Indigenous Women’s Network and Greenpeace USA, having also run as the Green Party’s vice presidential candidate alongside Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000.
LaDuke is also the author of six books, including The Militarization of Indian Country (2011) and All our Relations: Native Struggles for Life and Land (1999), focusing on environmental issues facing Native communities. To her further the cause of environmentalism, she has also given lectures, run campaigns and petitioned major companies to cleanup tribal lands.
You can watch her very interesting TEDxTC talk on the culture of food and the industrialization of foods and corporatization seeds here.