Winona LaDuke, an acclaimed environmental champion and twice Green Party vice presidential candidate with Ralph Nader, gave the keynote address at Texas Tech’s 26th annual All-University Conference on the Advancement of Women in Higher Education.
The speech capped a day of scholarly insight into the concept of womanhood. During the conference, hosted by Tech’s Women’s Studies program, panels reviewed papers and presentations by students and faculty on a range of topics relating to women, change and identity.
In her speech, LaDuke touched on a little bit of each.
She explained her work as a rural development economist on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, where she’s fought to shift away from the unsustainable and often inequitable American industrial economic model.
For the Anishinaabe tribe, the reservation’s inhabitants, LaDuke said poverty and poor health have undermined much of daily life.
She says millions of dollars pour out of the reservation each year at local stores for chemically infused food that fuels a diabetes epidemic. Millions more go to outside energy companies without ecological conscience.
The whole system is anchored in a failing industrial model – one built on greed, pollution, superficiality and discriminate privilege – that LaDuke says is failing her people. They’re unhappy and shackled by a substandard quality of life.
“If we as women become disconnected from the relationship to our mother (Earth), there is a certain point where we will want to consider where we’re at,” she said.
She’s pushed her peers on the reservation to grow their own organic food, to build clean wind energy turbines and to take back control of their schools, where tribal identity can be taught and restored.