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Pardes Yehuda: Winona LaDuke talks about Thunder Beings

Monday, July 21, 2008

Winona LaDuke talks about Thunder Beings

One of my favorite people, 1996 and 2000 Green Party vice-presidential candidate and activist Winona LaDuke, has an interview in Yes! Magazine. Ms. LaDuke has made her name with an amazingly impressive and positive resume as an activist for indigenous rights, and environmental and anti-nuclear movements as well. Born to a Jewish mother and Ojibwe father in LA, Ms. LaDuke now lives on the White Earth reservation in Minnesota, and is the executive director of Honor the Earth and White Earth Land Recovery Project (YOU REALLY NEED TO CLICK HERE!!!), in the interview Winona LaDuke spins a tale of traditional belief, traditional food and how to live and not destroy.
Ojibwe is a language of 8,000 verbs. The word for “work” is a strange construct for us. It doesn’t mean we aren’t a hard-working people, but in our language, the word is anokii, which means that whether you are fishing or weaving a basket, what you are doing is living—which is not the same thing as being paid a wage to do something.
After the harvest, we have a big feast, and we dance and tell stories. The anthropologists watched us, and they didn’t like that. They said we would never become civilized because we enjoyed our harvest too much. We did too much dancing, too much singing.
When you no longer enjoy your relationship to your food, to your plant relatives, to the harvest, to the dancing and singing—when you end up with a harvest that has no relationships or joy, I think that must be the mark of civilization and industrialized agriculture.
Ultimately, Winona LaDuke sets out a very positive look at possibilities. She tells it like it is, and unfortunately, "it" is a depressing tale of how governments, corporations, and pure consumer ignorance has led to the absolute depletion of indigenous food practices and indigenous food knowledge--worldwide. But LaDuke shows us this positive example from her own homestead,
We are growing more of our own food. About seven years ago, we got a handful of Bear Island flint corn from a seed bank and now we have about five acres of it. The corn is higher in amino acids, antioxidants, and fiber than anything we can buy in the store.
The traditional varieties of food that we grew as indigenous peoples—before they industrialized them and bred out much of the nutritional value—are the best answer to our diabetes. A third of our population is diabetic. We give elders and diabetic families traditional foods every month: buffalo meat, wild rice, hominy.
My 8-year-old, Gwekaanimad, and I started a pilot project with the school lunch program after I saw that they were eating pre-packaged food from
Sodexho, Sysco, and Food Services of America. We try to give our school kids a buffalo a month and also some deer meat, some local pork, and local turkeys. We started growing and raising our own. It’s just a start. We had to de-colonize our kids, too, because they got used to thinking that their food was that other stuff.
We plowed 150 gardens last year on our reservation. I’m a big proponent of gardens, not lawns. It turns out in most reservation housing projects you can’t grow food. That spot in front of your house is where you park your car, or your dogs will trample it, or your cousin will drive over it. So we’re putting two-foot-tall grow boxes up there, and you can grow a lot of vegetables in them.
Our goal is to produce enough food for a thousand families in five years. And these foods we are growing in anishinaabe akiing are not addicted to petroleum, and they don’t require irrigation or all those inputs. These strong plant relatives just require songs and care for the soil. And in a time of climate destabilization, that is what you want to be growing. You don’t want to be guessing with some hybrid.
Personally, I'm going to listen to Winona LaDuke about rice LONG before I listen to Uncle Ben.
Really, click above, read the interview, buy some rice and other goods (Minnesota's closer than Thailand or India, even if it isn't local!), but more importantly, you can trust it came from a positive source.

Thank you, Winona LaDuke, for a lifetime of positive action, creation and living.

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