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Pathways to Peace with Winona LaDuke

When Winona LaDuke, White Earth Recovery Project (WELRP) Director, comes to campus we are all reminded about the values that unify us as humans and the importance of our place on this planet. She reminds us that at our core we share similar values, and those values are seen in everything we do and teach the younger generations. Her lecture was evidence to the truth Dr. Ken Harmon, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, said when he opened Pathways to Peace this year: “The purpose of a university is to transform lives and to feel things at a deeper level.”

“Change by any means is necessary because change is inevitable. So, who makes change happen?”

Winona LaDuke is an economist by trade. She became an economist because she wanted to understand the systemic poverty affecting the people in her tribe and region. Her goal as an economist is to answer to the question “how do we address systemic poverty?” and her goal as an activist is to answer the question “who gets to make lasting change happen?”. These two questions are ultimately two sides of the same coin; two ways to approach the same problems. The economist seeks to understand. The activist seeks to change.

During her lecture, Winona discussed four lessons she tried to teach her children that everyone in the country needs to be reminded of when thinking about the government and the creation of public policy:

1) Let’s not steal.

2) Let’s not be greedy.

3) Clean up an old mess before you make a new mess. In addition to: When you make a mess, you shouldn’t make it even bigger.

4) Keep an open mind.

These lessons are easily digestible, but they help to remind us that we not only need to be responsible to ourselves and our families, but also to our nation. In each deliberation we need to consider the impacts to the seventh generation because ultimately our decisions regarding public policy now will affect the generations that come after us. Winona became an activist because she realized that we all have to stand up for the little people. If you wait for someone to save you, it won’t work out. This is true for the current generation and even truer for future generations.

Leadership is one way we, as individuals, can make change happen. In her tips about leadership, Winona said that ultimately leadership at its most basic level is to be informed and inform as many people as you can. Informing others and taking action is a form of leading by example. Because we are not capable of knowing everything, sharing the leadership burden increases the chances of success.

Posted: March 10, 2016