32nd Annual Peace Lecture features Indigenous and environmental rights activist Winona LaDuke
Updated: Dec 5, 2021
The 32nd Annual Salem Peace Lecture, hosted by Willamette’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, took place on Nov. 10 over zoom, featuring [Winona LaDuke], a renowned Indigenous and environmental activist. Willamette Chaplain Ineda Adesanya opened the event with a modified version of Willamette’s Land Acknowledgement and an Earth Prayer by Black Elk of the Oglala Lakota tribe. According to Adesanya, two Willamette student organizations, Climate Action Alliance and Native and Indigenous Student Union, hosted watch parties for the event.
LaDuke is an Indigenous and environmental activist. Some of LaDuke’s accomplishments include founding or helping to found the Indigenous Women’s Network, the White Earth Land Recovery Project, and Honor the Earth. LaDuke has received honors such as being named one of Time magazine’s Fifty Leaders of the Future in 1994, one of Ms. Magazine’s Women of the Year in 1998, receiving an honorary doctorate from Augsburg College in Minnesota in 2015 and earning the University of California’s Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance. LaDuke spent much of her childhood in Ashland, Oregon, with her mother, the artist Betty LaDuke. Winona means “first daughter” in Dakota. She is a member of the [Ojibwe] tribe and lives on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota, where she owns Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm. She graduated from Harvard University in 1982 with a B.A. in Rural Economic Development and from Antioch University in 1989 with a M.A. in Community Economic Development. LaDuke was a candidate for Vice President of the United States for the Green Party in 1996 and 2000.
LaDuke’s lecture, titled “Indigenous Strategies to Address Climate Change,” covered several topics connected to the issue of climate change and sustainability. LaDuke discussed her long standing opposition to Line 3, a proposed pipeline expansion that would run tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin (On Oct. 13, Willamette students hosted a [rally] to oppose Line 3). LaDuke advocated for the rights of activists such as herself, saying “I am not a criminal, I am a water protector.” LaDuke also argued that supporting Indigenous rights is critical to protecting the environment.
Much of LaDuke’s lecture described her “Sitting Bull Plan,” which seeks to create a greener and more sustainable future for the planet. LaDuke said that the plan could also be called the “Green Path,” based on a prophecy of the [Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) people], in which they would have a choice between two paths: one well worn and scorched and another green. The plan includes ideas such as making a more sustainable energy system through renewable energy and energy efficiency, rebuilding the food system to be more local and biodiverse, and building a more sustainable and localized economy that consumes less of what it does not need. LaDuke, who owns a hemp farm, also advocated for increasing the use of hemp for items such as paper, clothing, and building. LaDuke quoted Sitting Bull, saying ”Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children.” LaDuke also referenced a [metaphor from Arundhati Roy], an Indian author, that pandemics are like portals. According to Roy, pandemics have always forced societies to change; they must choose whether to walk through the portal with the problems of the past, or leave these behind and imagine a new and better future.
After LaDuke finished her comments, the audience had the chance to ask questions. Many of the questions were about Line 3 and water protectors. As a response to one of the questions, LaDuke said that “everybody can be a water protector” and that they can do this in their own communities. LaDuke said that people can keep up with the water protectors opposing Line 3 at https://www.honorearth.org/.
The Peace Lecture also featured Russ and Delana Beaton, the winners of the Salem Peacemaker Award. The couple moved to Salem 50 years ago with their children for Russ Beaton to accept a position as a professor of economics at Willamette, where he taught for [33 years]. Both expressed that they were honored and stunned to receive the award. While accepting the award, Delana Beaton said “each of us has an opportunity to find what area we feel we can serve in best, and that way every member of the greater Salem community can be part of the solution.” Russ Beaton stated that he views climate change and the rampant growth of income and wealth inequality as the world’s two biggest challenges. He also said that economics and ecology should become more connected and intertwined. LaDuke said that it was an honor to be with Russ and Delana Beaton and that Russ Beaton was spot on with his comments.
A recording of the 32nd Annual Peace Lecture is available [here].