LaDuke speaks on race, politics

By the

April 19, 2001

Winona LaDuke, former Green Party Vice Presidential candidate, spoke to a 75-person crowd in ICC Auditorium on April 9 and aired her views on a wide range of issues from the Bush presidency and America’s racial divide to native issues and the destruction of the environment.

Known for her wit and her outstated opinions, LaDuke did not shy away from addressing sensitive subject matter.

“In the town of the Washington Redskins, I have to make a few comments on cross-cultural cross-dressing,” LaDuke said.

“The only imagery [children] have is that which they get from TV … [Native Americans] become caricatures, mascots.”

Discussing public ignorance of America’s native heritage, LaDuke asked the audience to “raise your hand if you can name 16 [Native American] tribes?” Fewer than 10 people could.

“There are 500 federally-recognized tribes and 1200 native communities,” LaDuke said.

Further, LaDuke says, there are countless symbols in America which are offensive to Native Americans. Amherst, Mass., according to LaDuke is a good example.

“There aren’t too many towns named after Hitler,” LaDuke said, comparing Sir Geoffrey Amherst, a producer of smallpox blankets, to Adolf Hitler.

LaDuke spoke extensively about her motivations for entering politics.

“The first thing that I am motivated by is that I am a mother,” LaDuke said.

Another motivation is Ralph Nader. “He’s a pretty persuasive guy … When I was a kid, I had three heroes. One was Superman, one was Batman and one was Ralph Nader. He never wore tights,” LaDuke said.

LaDuke applies much of her life to her political philosophy.

“At my house we have this rule, you can’t make a new mess until you’ve cleaned up the old one,” LaDuke said. That would be a good principle to follow when society considers future development such as nuclear power or clear-cut logging, according to LaDuke.

LaDuke says she teaches her 10 children not to be greedy because one of society’s biggest problems is that it aggrandizes wealth.

Now is a critical time to change America, according to LaDuke.

“We face the task of reconciling our relationship with the land and reconciling our relationship with each other,” LaDuke said.

“We, as a country, have two paths ahead of us. One is well-worn but scorched. The other is green,” LaDuke said.

LaDuke sees the only potential benefit of the current Bush administration being that the backlash growth of the progressive movement.

How she plans to continue her work is unclear.

“I have thought about running for office in Minnesota, but I have no plans to yet,” LaDuke said.

LaDuke’s speech was sponsored by the Lecture Fund with additional funding from the Environmental Justice and Peace Institute.

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