Winona LaDuke at the Whiteside

img_1794Winona LaDuke, renowned environmental activist and two-time Green Party vice presidential candidate, spoke at the Whiteside Theatre Friday evening on “Native Rights and the Rights of Nature.” LaDuke lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, and has been a strong presence at Standing Rock Reservation over the past months, standing up against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She calls it the Dakota “Excess” Pipeline, though, to critique the unnecessary extraction of limited resources and oil.

Her speech was a call to action that began with an update on Standing Rock, showing photos of Water Protectors and the weapons used against them.

“This is not what civil society looks like,” she said. In a reclamation of President-elect Trump’s, “Make American Great Again,” LaDuke recalled times when America truly was great. She gave examples such as times when five different types of corn thrived across the Midwest, and tens of thousands of buffalo lived and migrated without interruption.

But nostalgia, and regret for contributing to what led up to the hottest year on record, soon transitioned into a positive outlook for the future. LaDuke told of happenings in her own life of pushing art to the forefront of people’s minds and installing solar panels instead of dwelling on the negative. She praised Oregonians for protesting their own pipelines and plants along the Columbia, sparking inspiration and the courage to keep going.

“We need to transform from the rights of corporations to the rights of nature. It’s going to take a lot to change the system,” LaDuke said. Calling a world view that puts biodiversity, climate change, and nature at the forefront “alternative” pushes it to the margins and diminishes its value. LaDuke says this kind of thinking is not “alternative,” but is necessary to protect the world for our children, and to protect the rights of nature.

By Regina Pieracci