Oct. 04–M State’s Legacy Hall hosted environmental activist Winona LaDuke Wednesday as she challenged those in attendance with the idea “how do you make things beautiful?”
Sponsored by M State’s sociology department and the Unitarian Church, LaDuke, executive director of the indigenous environmental organization Honor the Earth, delivered her keynote address titled: “The Seventh Fire” — named after an Anishinaabe prophecy.
LaDuke — an Anishinaabe member who resides on the White Earth Reservation — said the prophecy foretells of a choice between two paths, one path is well worn but it will be scorched, and the other path will not be well worn but created.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not just where we’re at, I’m pretty sure that’s where we’re all at,” LaDuke said to the audience. ” We have to figure out what we’re going to do in this moment.”
Against the backdrop of community art and photography projected onto a large screen, LaDuke continued her address informing those in attendance about White Earth’s bilingual sign project.
“I think we should have bilingual sign projects everywhere so that we can understand the language that the land is named in and why it’s named that way,” LaDuke said. “There’s a lot of large mountains named after small men.”
On the topic of “Make America Great Again” LaDuke gave examples of when she thought America was great, saying America was great when there were 8,000 varieties of corn, touting early Native Americans’ work in agrobiodiversity without the help of Monsanto or Syngenta. LaDuke continued by saying America was great back “when there were 50 million buffalo” that lived off 250 species of grass because of the tremendous biodiversity of the prairie. She said that in the area where the 50 million buffalo roamed, today there are 28 million cows and “they take a lot more stuff to take care of them than those 50 million buffalo.”
“America was great when there were billions of passenger pigeons that darkened the sky, when there were giant sturgeon in all of our rivers, swim areas were great,” LaDuke said. “This is when America was great, when wild rice was throughout Minnesota, we’ve lost about 70 percent of it.”
LaDuke then talked about her opposition to oil pipelines and the conflict between two cultures and differing worldviews, illustrated by a photograph of Sitting Bull which read: organic, side by side with a photograph of George Armstrong Custer that read: GMO.
LaDuke said her involvement with oil pipelines started with the Sandpiper Pipeline originating from the Bakken Oil fields in Northwest North Dakota, with plans to travel through parts of Minnesota proposed by Enbridge in 2013, the single largest pipeline corporation in the world and third largest corporation in Canada. LaDuke said she got involved because the first proposed route for the pipeline would have gone through the White Earth Reservation and near the single largest wild rice lake in the territory.
To combat the oil company, LaDuke enlisted the help of a multicultural alliance because “we all drink the same water.”
She joked, “My theory was that if you can get the Norwegians mad this would be a good thing.”
In 2016, Enbridge decided not to pursue the Sandpiper route and they canceled it, opting to purchase a third of the Dakota Access Pipeline. After talking about how the No DAPL protestors were met with dog attacks and drawing parallels to what happened in the South with race and its history, LaDuke drew applause when she said, “I feel like there’s this certain point where the rights of a corporation should not supersede the rights of people.”
LaDuke said her solution for the future and to make something beautiful she proposes the Sitting Bull plan.
“He was a great political thinker and what he said was ‘Let us put our minds together to see what type of future we can make for our children,’ ” LaDuke said.
(c)2018 the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.)
Visit the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.) at www.fergusfallsjournal.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.