Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Winona LaDuke Chronicles is a collection of stories and essays. These are arranged in eight parts, each centered around a particular theme. However, we can consider some themes that are common and recurring throughout the text.
Native People Are Inseparable From Native Places
In many of her essays, LaDuke reinforces the idea that indigenous people belong so strongly to their land that, in fact, they become one with it. Native communities developed in specific places, and their diverse lifestyles grew in harmony with the natural world. Each Native American culture, in fact, is a perfect reflection of the place in which they live. That’s why there are so many sacred sites; each place is imbued with its own spirituality, its own life. For example, LaDuke brings up the wild rice marshes, which are key to the Ojibwes’ traditional lifestyle. Wild rice grows on the banks of lakes, thrives with no care, and provides bountiful food for the people. An Ojibwe man she admired had among his accolades a championship in rice harvesting—650 pounds in one day. That illustrates the importance of wild rice lands for the Ojibwe. Another example is the Wimbe tribe, currently unrecognized by the federal government, who continue to fight for the return of native salmon to their river. These salmon are considered people and given their own name: the Nur. For these Native communities and many others, life is not possible without the plants, animals, and sacred places on which their culture is based.
The Importance of a Sustainable Lifestyle
LaDuke is a true believer in living within her means. For herself, that translates to fixing whatever she can and avoiding overconsumption. For example, when her house burned down, she decided to rebuild using only salvage and used materials from Craigslist. Reflecting on Native foods, LaDuke reminds readers that the earth can provide everything people need—if humans give the land (and the foods grown on it) respect and care. This is what indigenous cultures have been doing since the beginning of time. Being sustainable also means considering alternatives to practices such as coal mining. Instead of investing in dirty coal, people could look to other sources of energy, such as wind or solar. In reading LaDuke’s essays, we can see many alternatives to the current, wasteful way of life that is common to most North Americans.
Corporate and Governmental Dishonesty
If LaDuke has something to protest, it is all due to the dishonesty of companies—particularly mining and fossil fuel corporations—and the ongoing mistreatment of Native people by the government. She is harsh in her assessment of both Canadian and American governments, detailing the many cases of abuse and dishonesty in their dealings with indigenous people. For example, the Canadian government attempted to coerce one tribe into giving up rights on their land and withheld much-needed funds in that attempt. Another example is the American military, which continues to use tribal lands as testing ground for dangerous weapons and nuclear waste. Private corporations are no better. The wasteful practice of fracking is described in detail; companies use large amounts of resources that could have helped people in need, and then those companies do not even pay Native people what they are due. In addition, infrastructure is breaking down and neither companies nor the government see fit to repair it. Instead, they propose new, expensive, and dangerous pipelines for so-called economic reasons. LaDuke lays out her evidence around this theme in many ways, but we come to understand that neither the government nor private industry have the people’s best interests in mind.