LaDuke advocates forgotten organic life, paradigm shift
Winona LaDuke, an activist and former Green Party candidate who has advocated for her fellow Native Americans over the past 30 years, spoke passionately about human rights and the environment on Feb. 1 in Ardrey Auditorium.
LaDuke brought up a very interesting point with her triple diagnosis for the American psyche, which she said is responsible for the genocide of Native Americans and the contention between land development companies and tribes over sacred grounds. She named three forms of “psychosis in America: amnesia, transience and sedation.”
These three major faults of Americans have reduced Native Americans to dehumanized “caricatures that are removed from their human rights,” and whose beliefs in the natural world are not respected or considered legitimate, according to LaDuke. Her strong words are a sobering wake-up call to Americans’ complacency and dominating egos when it comes to treatment of different beliefs and the environment.
LaDuke blames the conquering and dominating mentality prevalent in our country’s educational system for our national amnesia, or forgetting our cultural background. “We become less when we separate people from their history in creating a packaged, ‘American’ identity,” LaDuke said. “When we buy our culture at the mall, we lose ourselves.”
LaDuke is absolutely right to call out the fact we do not give much consideration to our heritage, or even our relationship to the earth. In her work defending her tribe’s sacred natural monuments, LaDuke sets an example for Americans on the importance of valuing people more than material possessions. “Knowing our history makes us better people” and keeps us from living the “packaged American identity,” according to LaDuke. Our heritage is too fascinating for us to be complacent with our lifestyle that, in many cases, focuses more on quantity and superiority rather than character.
LaDuke’s explanation of our transience was eye-opening; she talked to the audience about why staying on the land in which we’re born and not always searching for “greener pastures” is such a bad thing. LaDuke said, “An endless notion of … entitlement, where you stick your flag on it … and it’s yours [has kept us] from building a relationship to place” and has created sprawl. Her depiction of suburban American life contrasts sharply to the reverence her Ojibwe culture gives the “resting places” of her migrating ancestors. Our national habit for naming mountains “after small men [or European imperialists]” pales in significance when compared to the ancient oral Native American traditions that first named the mountains. Instead of having to dominate the land, we should respect it and live with it. That is the basis of LaDuke’s environmental work, and it is an excellent philosophy for modern, polluting consumerism to espouse.
LaDuke calls on us to wake up from our sedation (or ignoring the issue of our lack of cultural awareness and environmental respect) so we can better achieve peace. “If this is a multicultural democracy, at some point there needs to be a redress for the aboriginal people who live here,” LaDuke said. “Those are the kinds of thing that are the deconstructing of [the idea of] empire.” She concluded by saying ,“We make peace through building better relationships to people.”
It’s time we Americans looked at the way we look at the world. We should listen to LaDuke’s words and consider the organic part of life that we have historically abandoned for massive and wasteful consumption. By considering other outlooks, we can change our nation’s paradigm for the better, and live a little better, by being more down to earth.