Let us make a difference as protectors of the earth

laduke.jpgEnvironmental and Native American activist Winona LaDuke delivered a simple message to General Synod 2105 delegates on Tuesday morning: Let us a make a difference.

“Today is the time of the seven fires,” the Native American woman with Ojibwe ancestry told the assembly. “We are faced with a choice of two paths, one forged and one green. It is a choice based on what we consume that will determine the way we will go.”

They determined that the consumption of energy and food drained half the resources of her Anishinaabe tribe in northern Minnesota, so that’s where they chose to make a difference.

“We are super-addicted to fossil fuel. I want a graceful transition out of fossil fuel into a sustainable future,” she said, noting the use of solar and thermal panels and wood-burning stoves as steps away from the fossil fuel economy. “You don’t need a shrink if you’ve got a woodpile.”

The Oregon-reared and Harvard-educated activist focused much of her attention on the extraction of shale oil from the Bakken Formation that extends across the Canadian border in North Dakota and Minnesota. “We do extreme stuff, forcing fresh water into tar sands and then piping it down here. We’ve made fracking exempt from every clean air and water act, and in doing so, we’ve unleashed a mess.

“But we’re so addicted to fossil fuel we act like addicts, addicts who hang out with their dealers.”

As she talked, slides of her family and her work were displayed behind. At a particularly solemn moment, the delegates burst into laughter. Puzzled, she looked back at a slide that that read, “Custer was a punk!”

“Oh, yes, that slide. Well, he was; he really was!”

Locally produced food is another prong in the Anishinaabe effort for self-sufficiency. “We have begun to relocalize our food,” researching heritage varieties of corn that are nutrient-rich and drought-resistant. “If you want to grow stuff, try growing things that fit your ecosystem.”

She told a story about last year’s horseback ride to Washington, D.C., to protest the Keystone Pipeline. She and her sons set up their tepee on Washington Mall. “This older white guy comes by and sticks his head in and asks me if I’d like to go for a ride in his car. Now that’s a real pick-up line. It was a Tesla! I got out of my tepee to ride in a Tesla. Now that’s what I call a graceful transition.”

She ended her presentation by showing a video by Honor the Earth, the organization she founded in 1993, which described the efforts to fight fracking and the pipeline. “We are protestors; we are protectors,” LaDuke offered in the video narration, describing an assault on the environment based on “greed, not need.”

After a reference to a pipeline leak that spilled oil in wild rice fields, she held up a package of  “oil-free wild rice” that her organization was selling in the exhibit hall to support their efforts.

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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