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ISSUE 121 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/9/2007

Human rights advocated

By Lyndel Owens
News Editor

Friday, November 9, 2007

Environmentalist and human rights activist Winona LaDuke explained that her vision for constructing world peace lies in re-localizing the economy by promoting sustainable food and energy lifestyles. LaDuke spoke in the Pause as part of Amnesty International's second annual Human Rights Week. In her speech she highlighted her reservation's efforts to implement bio-diverse food and energy alternatives to petroleum on their land as a model for other community efforts toward local resource empowerment.

Anthropology professor Carolyn Anderson admires LaDuke for her consistent activism. "She is someone who talks the talk and walks the walk. "I was impressed with how down to earth she is and how much knowledge she has about environmental issues that affect Native Americans," Anderson said.

Political Awareness Committee president Laura Groggel '08 said LaDuke, a Harvard-educated economist, author and 2000 Green Party vice-Presidential candidate, was an excellent choice for the week's Native American Rights theme.

"Amnesty was looking for someone whose life work showed great dedication to advocacy," Groggel said.

"Winona has done a lot of great things and is a big advocate not only for environmental rights but also human rights. Her message is extremely relevant for St. Olaf as we move forward with sustainability," she said.

LaDuke is an Anishanaabe Native American who lives on the White Earth Ojibwe reservation in Northern Minnesota. There she works as a community activist striving to regain Anishanaabe land through the White Earth Land Recovery Project. The project aims to grow food for reservation consumption, thereby lessening its dependence on non-sustainable food sources.

On Monday she discussed how integral local food, energy and land use are to cultivating global peace. "Most people don't [produce] anything in this country -- we buy it, which requires the level of petroleum in the economy," she said.

Along with proven facts and statistics, LaDuke's spirituality informed her message. "The things which are natural are cyclical. One would do well to create a lifestyle this way," she said in reference to society's need to develop systems that are harmonious with environmental realities.

LaDuke believes there is a tight correspondence between attitudes toward alternative living and a movement toward global peace.

"Trying to create a society based on peace requires deconstructing our way of thinking. There is a vision outside of that which is articulated. The more we have an intellectual monocrop, the more dangerous a society we live in," she said.

She added that the United States has to embrace an ethic of reciprocity instead of continuing to use one-third of the world's resources, 17 percent of which are consumed in the food sector.

LaDuke's comments on current environmental practice resonated with Erica Bisbey '10. "I loved how she illustrated the relationships between the environmental crisis, the global system and Western ideas of expansion and conquest, of taking without thanking and believing that life is linear rather than cyclical," she said.

Additional Human Rights Week activities include a letter writing drive in Crossroads and a pancake dinner from 9-11 p.m. Thursday in the Black and Gold Ballroom. On Wednesday night an Interfaith Prayer Service for Peace was held in Ytterboe Lounge.

"Human Rights are sometimes taken for granted, and this week is meant to remind us of the abuses that exist today," Groggel said

Anderson hopes LaDuke's lecture will motivate students to think critically about their potential to implement positive change on a local and global scale. "I think students should take to heart her admonition to them to use their privilege to change the world," she said.

Anderson also expressed great confidence in young people to come together to make things happen through social and political movements, "get involved and get to work, like Winona," she said.

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