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 > Copyright İ 1998 The Seattle Times Company
 > Posted at 05:39 a.m. PDT; Thursday, April 23, 1998

by Mary Elizabeth Cronin
Seattle Times staff reporter

       A woman asked Winona LaDuke how she keeps from being overwhelmed by
enormity of battling the environmental, political and economic threats to
her northern Minnesota White Earth Reservation tribal lands - and lending a
hand to efforts around the country.
     LaDuke stood for a moment with her gaze fixed on the woman. As she
her eyes and opened them, they filled with a peaceful determination. The
Harvard-educated environmental and native-land activist was fielding
questions from the 40 people who attended the Elliott Bay Book Company
reading yesterday afternoon for her first novel, "Last Standing Woman"
(Voyageur Press, $22.95). The book has drawn praise from two acclaimed
authors who are also Native Americans: Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie.
    LaDuke said she thinks about how hard her Anishinaabe (the native name of
the Ojibwe/Chippewa tribe) ancestors struggled seemingly futilely as the
federal government took away the rightful tribal lands and sent their
children away to government boarding schools.
    "Things take a long time to fix," LaDuke said. "If it takes 100 years to
take back the land, then that is the way it is. Just don't let them have the
power that they make you feel useless, disgusted, powerless. I just turn my
back and do my own thing."
     For "doing her own thing:"
  -- Ms. magazine selected her as one of its 1997 women of the year. She
shared the award with the Indigo Girls for their Honor the Earth
music/speaking tours to raise money for the Seventh Generation Fund,
supporting Native American social-justice and environmental groups.
-- Ralph Nader chose her as his 1996 vice-presidential candidate for the
Green Party.
-- Time magazine placed LaDuke in its 1994 roster of 50 of America's most
promising leaders age 40 and under.
-- The Reebok company gave her a $20,000 human-rights award in 1988, which
she used to buy back nearly 1,000 acres of lost tribal lands. She founded
the White Earth Land Recovery Project to reclaim the 837,000 acres granted
the Anishinaabe tribe in a 1967 treaty.
    LaDuke, 39 this year, has done a lot of living - and that doesn't count
lessons she's learned from the stories of elders she has interviewed for the
numerous articles she's written about native economic, environmental and
and-use issues.
    She held on to the stories until she had so many she had to tell them.
became the basis for a portion of her novel, a historical fiction account of
seven generations of Anishinaabe Indians.
    She brings many of the ancestral stories full circle, including linking
father-daughter incest rape of one character to the sexual violence the
grandfather met as a boy at the hands of a boarding-school priest.
    Like many of the novel's characters, LaDuke had to reclaim parts of her
culture. She was born in East Los Angeles to a Jewish mother and an
Anishinaabe father. Her mother raised LaDuke in Ashland, Ore., after her
parents split in 1964. In 1982, after graduating with a Harvard
economic-development degree, LaDuke took a job on the White Earth
Reservation as high-school principal. She learned her native language and
stayed after the job ended.
    One of the characters in her novel was modeled after her late father
LaDuke. Known as Sun Bear, he was an actor and activist who did work as an
extra in Hollywood Westerns. He lived in Spokane from the 1970s to the early
    A portion of the novel portrays an optimistically harmonious future. This
was purposeful.
   "A lot of Indian writing is history," LaDuke said. "I think Indian people
need to be in the future too. I can't relate to that doom future, `Brave New
World.' It's not my future."
    LaDuke, who lives in a cabin on a lake on the White Earth reservation
her son and daughter, 7 and 9, and her horses, works on the Native Harvest
project when she's not speaking or assisting other native groups. The
project creates an economic base by producing maple syrup, wild rice, jam
and traditional corn that LaDuke hopes will support the return of tribal
members. About 7,000 live on the reservation now.
    At Elliott Bay, a man asked LaDuke how she feels about white people who
to participate in native-land, environmental or social-justice causes. He
said he was heartened by the range of personalities among the white
characters in her novel. LaDuke praised his question.
    "Do it because it's the right thing," LaDuke said simply. "Don't do it
because of guilt. Do it because it encourages your own humanity."

  > Copyright İ 1998 The Seattle Times Company

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine 
of international copyright law.
           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)

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