Blog Posts on Winona LaDuke, “White Earth: A Lifeway in the Forest”

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18 thoughts on “Blog Posts on Winona LaDuke, “White Earth: A Lifeway in the Forest”

  1. In Winona LaDukes “Our Home on Earth”, she discusses her reservation which is all over Minnesota and their struggle with the federal government and how they are trying to buy out the natives and their reservation. She says “And for that same amount of time, government and industry accountants have been picking away, trying to come up with a formula to compensate Indians for the theft of their lands and livelihoods. So long as both remain steadfast, there appears to be little hope for a meeting of minds in the next generations.” According to the map on the first page, their reservation has slowly yet surely started to disappear and get smaller as the time as gone on. I think they are just trying to hold on to what little they do have left of their reservation and not have the federal government buy out anymore of the what once was a rather large reservation is now a quite small reservation.

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    • 2 points (second post of the week). The forces that have taken so much land away on the White Earth and other reservations are multi-faceted, not just federal government buyouts. Private buyouts and straight-out land takings have also been involved.

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  2. I found Winona Ladukes view in “Our Home on Earth” to be very interesting when considering sustainability. I thought at first that she was supporting sustainable development but in fact she actually says there is no such thing as sustainable development. For instance she says, “In conclusion, I want to say there is no such thing as sustainable development.” Instead, he says that there is such thing as sustainable communities. This idea can be a little tricky but I believe is best understood by thinking about the point he made in his second point of the clash of indigenous and industrial worldview. Here he talks about how everything is cyclical. He then brings up the fact how industrial society continues to be focused on direction defined by things like economic growth and technology. Some would believe this to be sustainable development when it’s really not. This idea is also covered in his first point because he talks about how we feel about our dominance in nature. If we respected nature for what it really was our community would be much more sustainable but people decide to only consider economic growth and technology nowadays.

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    • 5 points. You’ve explored one of LaDuke’s most critical but also challenging points. The idea of the commons can also play a major role in the kind of community development LaDuke is talking about. (By the way, your original pronouns were correct–“she” rather than “he.”)

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  3. Reading only the first few paragraphs of Winona LaDuke’s “Our Home on Earth”, I learned a few facts regarding Native American people that I did not know before. LaDuke states that there is about 4 percent of land in the United States held by Indian people. In regards to Canada and North America as a whole, however, LaDuke says, “But if you go to Canada, about 85% of the population north of the fiftieth parallel is native. If you look at the whole of North America, you’ll find that the majority of the population is native in about a third of the continent”. She says that there are many other countries in the western hemisphere as well that native people make up the majority of the population. I did not realize that Indigenous people were so prevalent in today’s society. Another fact I found interesting is indigenous people’s belief in balance and sustainability. Their idea of balance suggests that you should never take more than you need and you should give back. The indigenous way of living in accordance to nature clashes with the “selfish” ways of our industrial society.

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    • 5 points. LaDuke’s “indigenous” vs. “industrial” framework puts our understanding of human interdependence with nature and the idea of the commons into a good context for understanding.

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  4. Winona LaDuke is a well versed author that continually opens our minds to the true meaning behind what the Life way in the Forest is in an article, entitled ‘White Earth.’ In this she points out things in nature that we often over look or don’t give much thought to. She states that the land of the Manoominikewag was chosen by its heads people a century ago for the purpose of its landscape to be called the ‘White Earth’. It is their ecosystem, their traditional way of life.I agree with when she states that there is no way to set a price on this way of life. It’s sacred and connects them to their surroundings. Often times though the government and industry accountants have been picking away, trying to come up with a formula to compensate Indians for their lands and livelihoods. To Winona this produces several problems for the lives of those people because it puts them out of a home and this can disorientate their lives. She recalls stories of the White Man and The White Earth; displaying how the mortality of wealth becomes very evident when a price is put on their land and rich corporations try to buy away that home from them. One important fact that she brings up states, ‘For over 60 years, the Bureau of Indian Affairs hadn’t properly recorded the many complex transactions that had occurred during the great transfer of land from Indian to non-Indian hands.’ I believe goes to show how the government has in the past, maybe even now, taken advantage of the indigious people only to make a profit for themselves. This goes to show as a society how self absorbed we are without thinking of the needs of one another. She states that their has always been some anti- Indian sentiment in America, but I believe that shouldn’t push certain people to discriminate against a people just because they don’t share the same values or culture. The root of these problems is a land issue. People want to own some sort of amount of land and this can sometimes cause people to take the wrong action to get it. All of this tension between whites and Indians has caused fewer non- Indian residents, more absentee owners, and a growing mostly landless Indian community. This is where the WELRP has come into the picture. It gal is to be a sustainable communities initiative that melds the useful and meaningful aspects of both the traditional anishibaabeg and Euro- American culture into a truly sustainable way of living. In all the Winona is stating I agree with the need we have to not only preserve the land of the White Earth, but to also preserve its cultural practices. I believe that in order to preserve something we need to first give it the respect it deserves and try to keep the history in tact.

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    • 5 points. You’ve captured a lot of the ideas in LaDuke’s wide-ranging argument. The link between cultural practices and land is especially important. I’m not quite sure how you’re seeing all this add up–be sure to make the links between ideas more clear when you’re writing formal papers (this is informal).

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  5. Winona LaDuke’s essay is an informative piece which makes the audience realize the struggles Native Americans have overcome and still are overcoming today. The land they once knew so well has become unfamiliar to them, since it has been taken away and used in a detrimental manner. In the essay it states that Native American believe there is no way to set a price on their way of life. For their way of life, their land, their trees, and their future, cannot be quantified and are not for sale. The government despite these claims has been trying to come up with a number to compensate Indians for the theft of their lands and livelihood. The Native Americans do not want money, they want there land back, for the land is priceless. LaDuke discusses in her essay the sustainability of the way of life Native Americans lead. There way of life is less wasteful, renewal is a central part for each generation’s responsibility. They use techniques especially in farming which do not harm the land. As shown in the video of Winona LaDuke in class we saw the corn she grows did not use any fertilizers or pesticides and it could withstand droughts and winds better than other corn. Therefore her corn was stronger than the genetically modified corn. Their way of life is more simple and focuses on giving back to the land, Winona LaDuke argues we need to return to a native American way of life which will start when the land is returned to them.

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    • 5 points. The link between cultural practices and land is all-important for LaDuke. I’m not sure I’d call them “simple.” In many ways, both Native agricultural and cultural practices are more complex than industrial society’s, which is their strength. Remember how Wendell Berry talks about industrialism as being “oversimplified.”

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  6. One of the classes I am taking this semester is Introduction to Indigenous Cinema. Throughout this course we watch movies based on Indigenous people to study the media’s conception of Native Americans and learn more about Native Americans in general. One of the main recurring topics in the films is how the government treats Native Americans and their land. In “White Earth a Lifeway in the Forest” Winona LaDuke describes a commons that is present on Big Chippew Lake. This Commons is very similar to a lot of other Native American commons that I learned about. For example a Native American reservation can be thought of as a sort of commons. In a reservation almost everything is shared and used by everyone in common with a set of “rules” known to people on the reservation governing how they use the resources. Many Native American ideas and teachings coincide with the idea of a commons. For instance one very common Native American teaching is that the land belongs to everyone and for that reason it has to be respected and taken care of. Winona LaDuke seems to believe very strongly in her ancestors’ teachings and in her tribes’ ways of taking care of the land. However, I believe that she focuses a little too much on the negative things the government and the industrialized world in general have done.

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    • 5 points. I’m glad you’ve found some good connections with another course you’re taking–and that you’re taking that course, too! I’m not sure what might be too “negative” in LaDuke’s analysis. When a government and industrialism has dispossessed you of most of your land, kept your people in poverty, and tried to destroy your cultural practices (let alone exterminate most of your people), how can you be too negative?

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  7. Winona LaDuke’s essay was very informative in terms of informing people, who know very little about Native Americans, like myself, how Native Americans are living and problems they are facing these days. In the first few paragraphs, she talks about numerous treaties that US government signed with Native Americans. After all, she says, “just 14 percent of the original White Earth land was still in Indian hands.” She also says that the government is trying to come up with a formula to compensate Indians for their livelihood. However, she takes a strong side of opposing this idea that there is no way to find a formula of their livelihood. By reading this part of the essay, I was able to recall our class discussion on tragedy of commons. Because of the selfishness, people are trying to maximize their gains in the commons because no one owns it. However, it seems that the US government took further steps by actually purchasing the chunk of land from the Native Americans to nationalize and maximize their territory. The continuosly developing technology also made the US government keep purchasing more land from the Native Americans and ended up limiting their lives in a few reservations across the country by treaties. I think purchasing the land that was not owned by anyone but shared equally is a great example of the tragedy of commons. At the end of the essay, she gives readers some ideas that the way of using the land currently by the US government is not what she was taught by her ancestors. Again, I can understand how sensitive the issue is in America and I sincerely hope that a better and satisfactory outcome is made between those two main actors in this region.

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    • 5 points. I’m glad you learned a lot from LaDuke’s essay! Good connections with the ideas of the commons, too. You’ve tapped into how the very different worldviews of the commons and privatization can lead to devastation, even though Bollier says we must find a balance of both. (I’m not sure LaDuke feels that way.)

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  8. The thing I liked most about reading/listening to Winona LaDuke was when she got into detail about how much more this is about than just food and profit. A lot of people just looking from the edge on a topic like this would think that they are trying to preserve their land and crops solely so they can have food and earn a living, but its bigger than that she talks about. There’s a religious pull to it, there’s bonding between the community, and economical benefits all the way across the board. It would be a tragedy for the government to get heavily involved and not only ruin the land in which they grow the rice, but also ruin the community in the process of it.

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    • 5 points. Very good observation that what LaDuke is talking about is a way of life, not just food and economy. Regarding your last sentence, I think LaDuke and many others would argue that the tragedy has already happened extensively. What they’re trying to preserve is a tiny, tiny portion of what’s left.

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  9. Winona LaDuke did a wonderful job of telling people how poorly the Native Americans have been treated. The slaughter of them was not the only injustice. Many, even today, still face poverty, discrimination and a lack for opportunities. Her ideas on how to preserve the earth were very interesting as was her story about the march in Washington D.C. and the stranger who offered her a ride in his Tesla
    The government is usually not the ones who destroy the environment, it is usually the corporations but in this case, shame on the government for not only mistreating the Natives once more but for the continual destruction of the environment

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    • 5 points. I think much of the concern of many people, including LaDuke, is that the government and corporations are too much aligned with each other, too often against the best interests of the general public. On the other hand, we also must admit that the general public votes this government into office and, for the most part, keeps the corporations alive by supporting them through consumer choices.

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