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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

World-famous activist comes to Grinnell

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, JRC 101 was transformed into a platform for activism.

Visiting speaker Winona LaDuke spent the evening enlightening the audience on the struggles faced by indigenous women and issues of economic and agricultural sustainability. LaDuke is the Founding Director of Honor the Earth and the Executive Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, as well as a founder of the Indigenous Women’s Network. She was also the vice-presidential candidate on Ralph Nader’s 1996 and 2000 presidential bids with the Green Party.

LaDuke was brought to campus through the Peace and Conflict Studies Program. Brigittine French, Program Chair and Associate Professor of Anthropology, expressed the desire to expose the Grinnell community to LaDuke’s unique perspective.

“We … invited LaDuke to campus because she speaks with, for and to a multiplicity of communities in her writing, advocacy and activism,” French said. “In a time when there is a paucity of indigenous women’s perspectives represented in national public discourse, it is extremely important to listen carefully to her perspectives for engaged citizens of the state of Iowa, the nation and the world.”

LaDuke began her talk by addressing the status of women in Indian communities throughout history.

“The status of native women when colonized is not as good as the status pre-colonization … in general our status has declined,” she said. “Today the status of Indian women is … moving back towards something, but it is not without a long struggle.”

She further addressed the oppression of Native Americans and the issue of racism, paying specific attention to the oppression of Native American women on reservations.

As she went on, LaDuke began relating the role of women to the paramount issues in our society. She compared the responsibilities women have as mothers to their responsibilities to the nation and to Mother Earth.

“We are considered the mothers of our nations. All issues of concern to us as nations are of concern to us as mothers. I have never accepted any relegation of areas that I might be interested in as ‘women’s issues,’” LaDuke said.

She addressed the issues of sustainable agriculture, stressing the importance of returning to more natural practices in order to better our health and improve the environment.

Eventually she explained the economic issues preventing us from a chance at a sustainable future, citing disparities in wealth as a crippling factor.

“The impact of that disparity of wealth is huge. This is not an abstract discussion. We need to be more accountable about obtaining wealth and the poverty it causes,” she said.

Finally, she encouraged the eager audience members to remember the importance of activism, insisting that we must passionately pursue a brighter future.

“Social movements are essential to social change,” LaDuke said.

LaDuke’s ideas were well-received by the audience. She fielded a number of questions from the enthusiastic crowd.

One of the students in attendance, Louisa Silverman ’15, commented on the value of bringing speaker’s like LaDuke to campus.

“I think it’s super important that this type of message gets projected to as many people as possible,” Silverman said.

Winona LaDuke addresses her audience in JRC 101. Photo by Mary Zheng.
Winona LaDuke addresses her audience in JRC 101. Photo by Mary Zheng.
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