If you haven’t heard of Winona LaDuke, take a minute, get out your internet-worthy device of choice and track down her TED talk. Watch it all the way through - if you have the attention span. If she doesn’t make you realize the vitality and richness of contemporary Native American society, or at least hungry for some farm fresh wild rice and corn, then nothing will.
If you eat food and live in the United States, then what LaDuke has to say relates to your life. And luckily for you, she is coming to Western on March 5 to give a lecture titled “The Next Energy Economy: Moving Forward with Grassroots Strategies to Mitigate Global Climate Change.” The event is the final installment of the quarter for the Fairhaven World Issues Forum and will be cosponsored by the AS Environmental Center and the AS Social Issues Resource Center.
LaDuke, of Anishinaabe descent, is a prolific writer, activist and orator. She has published a little bit of everything, including several hard-hitting non-fiction titles, a novel and a children’s book. She started the White Earth Land Recovery Project on the White Earth reservation in Minnesota. The project focuses on land reclamation and a return to traditional, sustainable wild rice and corn farming.
LaDuke is probably best known nationally as Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader’s running mate in the 1996 and 2000 elections.
LaDuke last spoke on campus in 2009 as a part of the AS Productions Civil Controversy’s Food and Justice Conference [Civil Controversy was cut in 2011]. Shirley Osterhaus, senior instructor at Fairhaven College and coordinator of the Fairhaven World Issues Forum, saw LaDuke speak then and managed to connect with her this year through a contact in the Lummi Nation.
“I feel very lucky and honored that we get to have her here at Western. It’s quite a gift and a great finale to the whole World Issues Forum on Climate Change,” Osterhaus said.
The Fairhaven World Issues Forum turned its focus to Climate Change this quarter because, “it is so critical, and it effects everyone, no matter who you are. If you’re not being affected now, you will be affected and it’s important to get a sense of where people are being most impacted right now,” Osterhaus said.
The direct connection between native communities and the mitigation of climate change is so important because native groups are usually on the front lines, said Osterhaus, “If you look globally at what’s happening with climate change, the communities that are most impacted right now are often the communities that have done the least damage to planet earth.”
Osterhaus referenced another speaker from the series, Princess Daazhraii Johnson of the Gwich'in nation in Alaska, who talked about the effects of the glacier melt and the oil drilling that breaks up Caribou migrations, as well as the efforts of the Lummi Nation to prevent the construction of the proposed Cherry Point Coal Terminal.
Osterhaus reached out to AS Environmental Center Coordinator Monica Tonty about cosponsoring the event, and Tonty was quick to agree.
“With our events this year, I’m trying to reach out to more diverse audiences, and talk about the diversity in the environmental movement, because there’s kind of a stereotype of the type of people who are usually involved,” Tonty said.
Most of all, Tonty and Osterhaus hope that people leave the talk inspired. “I think that it’s a really good opportunity to hear from someone who’s been working on these issues for a really long time,” Tonty said.
“She can speak to the ways that we can move forward and solve problems at hand. She’s proposing solutions, not just talking about the problem, and I think that’s really good for people to hear.”
“I always think in terms of being informed and being engaged,” Osterhaus said, “Those two words are really important. It’s through being informed that we get inspired and tap into our own courage to do what we need to do because we hear people like Winona or others who have the courage to do something about the situation. We have that power to do it. We all can make a contribution.”
Winona LaDuke will take the podium in the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room on Wednesday, March 5, from 12 to 1:20 p.m. The event is free and everyone is welcome, but there is a limit of 500 seats.