Native American activist LaDuke addresses sustainability


Winona LaDuke, internationally acclaimed Anishinaabe author, orator and activist, contributed an empowered, new voice to the discussion of sustainability earlier this week in her Native American Heritage Month keynote lecture.

In her speech Monday, “Building a Green Economy: Indigenous Strategies for a Sustainable Future,” LaDuke addressed a standing-room-only audience of faculty, staff, students and members of the broader community, including an honorific delegation from the Little Traverse Bay Odawa Tribe of Petoskey.

“King-Chavez-Parks Visiting Professor LaDuke articulated a new approach, one that combines tradition with current realities,” said Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs. “This is a valuable contribution to our evolving understanding of the key climate issues of our era and potential solutions.”

Winona LaDuke delivered the Native American Heritage Month keynote lecture. Photo by Linh Nguyen.

A recipient of numerous human rights awards and founder of the national Honor the Earth initiative, which supports grassroots Native American environmental groups, LaDuke has devoted her life to protecting the lands and life ways of native communities. 

In her remarks, LaDuke addressed sustainable development, climate change and environmental justice in Native American nations. She described the cyclical nature of the Earth in Anishinaabemowin, the indigenous language of the Great Lakes region, addressed social and cultural understandings of sustainability in indigenous communities, and challenged her listeners to think in broader terms and about larger issues when discussing the impacts of the environmental crisis facing the planet.

LaDuke asked students to examine the differences between a culture that values the natural way of living and a culture based on consumption.

“Consider the possibility of a world view that has nothing to do with empire,” she began. “A society based on empire and conquest is not sustainable. At some point, you have to learn how to live.”

“Professor LaDuke’s message is inspirational to all who feel deeply about our shared futures, and should be carefully regarded by peoples of all nations,” said John Burkhardt, director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity. “She has devoted her life to issues of social justice.  It is important that she could be here to share her insight.”

Sponsors of the event included the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs; Native American Student Association; National Center for Institutional Diversity; Office of Multi-Ethnic Students Affairs/Trotter Multicultural Center; Center for Campus Involvement; Native American Studies Program; Department of American Cultures; Department of Afroamerican and African Studies; Center for Public Policy in Diverse Societies; Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; School of Social Work; Department of Women’s Studies; and the Center for the Education of Women.


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