Winona LaDuke is an internationally renowned activist working on issues of sustainable development renewable energy and food systems. As Program Director of the Honor the Earth, she works nationally and globally on the effects of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice with Indigenous communities. LaDuke was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2007. She was selected as one of the most promising leaders under 40 in 1994 by Time magazine. In 1996 she received the Thomas Merton Award for peace and social justice. And in 1997, she received the Ms. Woman of the Year award in 1997 with the Indigo Girls. LaDuke is an author of many books including All Our Relations: Native Struggles For Land and Life (2017, 1999), Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming (2005), The Winona LaDuke Reader: A Collection of Essential Writings (2002), Last Standing Woman (1999), and Strangers Devour the Land:A Chronicle of the Assault upon the Last Coherent Hunting Culture in North America, the Cree Indians of northern Quebec, and their Vast Primeval Homelands (1976).
Some assignment ideas to incorporate Winona LaDuke’s work into your classroom:
The assignments below, created by Writing Across the Curriculum Fellow Laura Hillegas and Wolfe Director Rosamond S. King are appropriate for a variety of college-level courses, and engage reading, writing, visual, and online tools. If you are a BC faculty member and would like a free copy of Winona LaDuke’s All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life, please email the Wolfe Institute at email@example.com.
Map Making & Understandings of Land and Place:
Maps are subjective; while it is commonly believed that they are objective, in fact, maps represent the perspectives and interests of those who create and disseminate them.
Look at a map of the USA.
Read and take notes on Winona LaDuke’s “Reclaiming Our Native Earth” from Earth Island Journal. Take notes on references to the land, its resources, and how different people have made claims on or of the land. Try to visualize the places and people being described.
Now, create your own map. You can draw it or use a digital tool, such as Google Maps. Your map will not use exact cartography. You have two options – each should include at least three specific places of interest:
A map that shows the difference between the traditional map (the Western representation of land and people’s relationship to it) and what you read in the essay (Indigenous understandings of land and people’s relationship to it).
A map that shows some of the changes to the land through history, from the time before colonization to today.
Present your map to the class in person or online, explaining your choices – or write a 300-600 word essay explaining your choices. In either method, include at least three quotes from LaDuke’s essay.
The Nature of Apologies: Engaging Creative Writing:
Read and take notes on the excerpt of Whereas by Oglala Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier and take notes on the poem’s structure and her use of pronouns.
Where have you heard the word “whereas” before? In what contexts do you expect to hear it? How does Long Soldier’s use of the word evolve over the course of the excerpt? What does she seem to be responding to?
Look up, read, and take notes on the U.S. government’s official apology to Native peoples in 2009. Why do you think you’ve never heard of it?
Discuss the nature of official apologies, and what a “real” apology looks or sounds like.
As a group or individually, write an apology you would like to hear – this can be in “official” or poetic language. These can be shared orally in class, posted on a class blog, or turned in independently to the professor.
“What is the value of your homeland?”
Read and take notes on the chapter on the Northern Cheyenne (p. 75-96 in LaDuke’s All Our Relations).
On page 76, LaDuke asks “What is the value of your homeland?” Ask students to review the value placed on the Northern Cheyenne’s homeland. Then ask them to consider the “valuation” of New York City — by what systems is this value determined? What gives a place value that cannot be monetized? Finally, broaden the discussion to the value they and others place on specific places in New York City they consider home (e.g. East New York or Crown Heights), or other places in the world they (also) consider home.
Drawing on this discussion, “What is the value of your homeland?” can be a prompt for a blog post or an essay connecting the ideas in LaDuke’s work to the student’s own life.
Considering Sources and Resources
Read and take notes on a chapter from All Our Relations, or “Anishinaabe Prophecy: Communities Must Choose the Green Path for Food, Energy” from Tribal College Journal.
Consider LaDuke’s use of sources (which include oral history and folklore). Discuss how these sources compare to traditional academic sources. Discuss what “sources” students use to create their belief systems and make important choices.
Have students conduct an interview project with elders in their community, emphasizing ideas of home and place. You may also ask them to write a brief essay connecting LaDuke’s work to their interview. Quotes from the interviews and the essay can be posted on a class blog, as can audio clips from the interviews.
Land and Activism in the 21st Century
Read and take notes on the introduction to All Our Relations (1999) or one or both of the brief essays: “Klamath Water, Klamath Life: The water wars of the Northwest” (Earth Island Journal, 2002) and “Alaska: Oil and the Natives” (Earth Island Journal, 2003).
Do some online research using keywords from the essays. Compare the arguments made in these earlier writings to what has been happening in the climate change movement in the last year. How are Indigenous people and youth involved? How have understandings of the issues, strategies, and leadership changed – or stayed the same?
In response to the above prompt, students can write blog posts, come to class with written notes ready to share, or write a short essay.
Assignments Assignment Ideas Specific to Food, Health, and Nutrition
Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming (2005) by Winona LaDuke Part 3 Seeds and Medicine; Three Sisters, Wild Rice, Food as Medicine (free copies available from the Wolfe Institute)
Interview/Oral History Project.
Interviews are one of the major sources of quotes in this book. Ask the student to do interviews with family/community members, especially the elders. Questions may include:
What is the signature agriculture product(s) in your family/homeland/culture?
What is the traditional food that appears on most families’ tables? What’s the significance of it?
Do you still see it? If not, why? What has changed?
All the questions are supposed to inspire reflection on the relationship between people and the earth, food and culture, the material and the spiritual.
Students can present their interviews to the entire class or share in small groups to inspire discussion. They can also write a paper drawing from their interviews as a source and work read for the class.
Class discussion or short presentation “I love … because …” (p.165)
Ask students to research and prepare a short presentation on one food product that they relate to their homeland or culture. Their research should use different kinds of sources (e.g. scholarly, popular, and personal), and seek out the history of the food (e.g. who created it), its nutritional aspects, as well as its ingredients. Encourage students to include maps, collages, and other visual resources. Questions they may consider:
What is the significance of this food for me and my family?
What is the connection of this food and my idea of home/homeland?
Does it say anything about my community and my people?
Is the food made differently in the USA than in the homeland?
Has the food’s significance or ingredients changed over time? If so, how?