The Winona LaDuke Chronicles

by Winona LaDuke

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Last Updated on October 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 748

Since the beginning of times, the Creator and Mother Earth have given our peoples places to learn the teachings that will allow us to continue and reaffirm out responsibilities and ways on the lands from which we have come. Indigenous peoples are place-based societies, and at the center of those places are the most sacred of our sites, where we reaffirm our relationships. (66)

In her book, Winona LaDuke reinforces many times the indissoluble connection between indigenous peoples and their land. They do not merely live on the land; they are the land. Mother Earth is truly a person and needs protection, care, and love, like any other being. In addition, LaDuke reminds us that humans are not the only people. There are also animals, plants, and living soil and water to consider. This passage illustrates beautifully the Native relationship to place, and helps us understand the value of sacred sites to indigenous people.

In the time of Thunderbeings and Underwater Serpents, the humans, animals, and plants conversed and carried on lives of mischief, wonder, and mundane tasks. The prophets told of times ahead, explained the deluge of past and predicted the two paths of the future: one scorched and one green, one of which the Anishinaabeg would have to choose. All of us have the same choice, and somewhere in this time, there is the potential to take the right path. (75)

A recurring theme in The Winona LaDuke Chronicles is the need for sustainable energy. LaDuke urges readers to consider alternatives to fossil fuels, which are expensive, inefficient, and disastrous to both people and the environment. This passage highlights an ancient legend that predicted just such a decision, which now faces us in our time. Do we want a scorched future or a green one? The only way to choose the living path—the green, the Earth, safety and life for all—is to move away from our bad industrial habits. There is hope in solar energy, wind power, hemp products, alternative vehicles, sustainable organic agriculture, and many other avenues. We simply have to make the choice.

We understand our relationship and honor our Mother. We understand that what corporations would do to the Earth is what corporations and armies have done to our women, and we give no consent. At the same time, we are visioning and creating the world we wish to live in, and that we will live in. We are in the midst of doing the work to restore local food systems, restore and strengthen health, housing and energy systems in our Indigenous communities. (155)

In LaDuke's estimation, Native women are a force of Nature. They are fighting at the forefront of many movements, such as opposing the Keystone pipeline, advocating for better health care, and insisting on safer, healthier foods for their communities and our Earth as a whole. LaDuke is one of many women working together to promote indigenous rights, each in her own community and on a larger scale. Women, especially Native women, have historically suffered: as a result, they rise now from a place of never having been recognized, never given the privilege or pride or even treaty negotiation power that men were allowed. This puts Native women in the position of speaking truly, unshackled by any conflict of interest. One of their primary purposes is staying in the places they belong and making those places healthy and sacred again.

Last year, I went to Washington DC, rode a horse to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, and hung out in my tipi on the Washington mall. A gentleman came over to the tipi, stuck his head in the door, and asked if I would like to go for a ride in his car. He said it was a Tesla. (299)

This quote, from the very last page of the book, highlights LaDuke’s essentially hopeful tone. Although she spends plenty of time detailing atrocities to nature, such as poisoned lakes and destroyed communities, her chronicles are at core a collection of stories about those who fight—and win. There is positive change happening every day, mostly through the hard work of environmental activists, indigenous women, and other individuals who want a living future. At the end of the book, LaDuke ties this together by claiming her power as a Native woman to be present, to be seen and heard in our nation’s capital—and receive a ride in a zero-emissions vehicle, perhaps a sign of better times in the near future.

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