Winona Laduke AWTT Portrait

Winona LaDuke

Native American Activist, Environmentalist, Writer : b. 1959

“The essence of the problem is about consumption, recognizing that a society that consumes one-third of the world’s resources is unsustainable. This level of consumption requires constant intervention into other people’s lands. That’s what’s going on.”


Winona LaDuke grew up in Los Angeles, California. She is an enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg of the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota. Her father was an actor in westerns as well as an Indian activist. Her mother was a Jewish art professor. She credits her parents for passing the spirit of activism on to her. LaDuke became involved in Native American environmental issues after meeting Cherokee activist Jimmy Durham as a student at Harvard. She began making a political name for herself at age eighteen when she addressed the United Nations on Indian issues.

After graduating from Harvard in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in native economic development, LaDuke moved to White Earth. There, she founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) to reclaim Anishinaabeg lands that had been promised by an 1867 federal treaty but had been slowly stolen and parceled out by the U.S. government at the behest of the logging industry. Although LaDuke often found herself embroiled in losing legal battles, she persevered, securing grants and winning a Reebok Human Rights Award. With these funds, she and White Earth have reclaimed one thousand acres of tribal land. But the challenge is huge. The vast majority of White Earth’s original 837,000 acres remain in the hands of non-Indians. LaDuke says if a people do not have control of their land they do not control their destiny.

In 1994, Time magazine named LaDuke one of the nation’s fifty most promising leaders under the age of forty. She became known as a voice for American Indian economic and environmental concerns throughout the United States and internationally.

LaDuke has served on the boards of the Indigenous Women’s Network and Greenpeace USA. She is founding director of Honor the Earth, a Native environmental advocacy organization that played an active role in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Since then, she has been involved in resistance movements against other U.S. and Canadian pipelines. She ran as the Green Party’s vice presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000. She is the author of eight books, including The Sugar Bush (1999), a children’s book, and most recently To Be a Water Protector: The Rise of the Windigoo Slayers (2020).

Now in her sixties, LaDuke devotes more time to farming. Located on the White Earth reservation, her farm grows heritage vegetables and hemp. She promotes hemp’s environmental advantages: It requires less water to grow than cotton; can replace petroleum-based synthetics in clothing and other products; and absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, rather than releasing it. The vision for Winona’s Hemp & Heritage Farm is to create an Indigenous women-led economy based on local food, energy, and fiber—an economy that is kind to the Earth.




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