Winona LaDuke: Indigenous Activist
Winona LaDuke is part of the New Green Revolution. She runs Winona’s Hemp Farm and partners with the Anishinaabe Agricultural Institute to rematriate seeds, restore foodways and support an economy based on local food, fiber, and energy. They have committed to growing and processing hemp and want to change the textile industry.
Winona (meaning "first daughter" in Dakota language) LaDuke was born in 1959 in Los Angeles, California. LaDuke attended public school and was on the debate team in high school. She attended Harvard University, where she joined a group of Indigenous activists, and graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in economics with a focus on rural economic development. While working as the principal of the local Minnesota reservation high school in White Earth, Minnesota 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 Antioch University's distance-learning program.
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 in the reservation that non-Natives bought and to create enterprises that provide work to Anishinaabe. By 2000, the foundation had bought 1,200 acres, which it held in a conservation trust for eventual cession to the tribe.
WELRP is also working to reforest the lands and 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.
LaDuke is also executive director of Honor the Earth, an organization she co-founded with the non-Native folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls in 1993. The organization's mission is:
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.
Ms. LaDuke lives on the White Earth Reservation and spends time farming, working with Honor the Earth and the White Earth Land Recovery Project, as well as participates in environmental justice and social activism. Part of Ms. LaDuke’s vision includes restorative agriculture based on Anishinaabe knowledge and farming with minimal fossil fuel use. The goal is to grow organic fiber, food, and industrial products. In 2022, she received the “Mother Earth (Lady of Agriculture) Award for expanding entrepreneurial hemp operations.
Legacy and Honors
1994, LaDuke was nominated by Time magazine as one of America's fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age.
1996, she was given the Thomas Merton Award
1997, she was granted the BIHA Community Service Award
1998, she won the Reebok Human Rights Award.
1998, Ms. Magazine named her Woman of the Year for her work with Honor the Earth. That same year she also received the Ann Bancroft Award for Women's Leadership Fellowship.
2007, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
2015, she received an honorary doctorate degree from Augsburg College.
2017, she received the Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance, at the University of California, Merced.
Very Important messages, and vital to the survival of our people.