Winona LaDuke: Running To Help Poor
pracko at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 29 10:27:23 PDT 2000
AUGUST 29, 02:44 EDT
Nader's Veep: Running To Help Poor
By PATRICK HOWE
Associated Press Writer
WHITE EARTH INDIAN RESERVATION, Minn. (AP) While sweeping
the floors in her remote log home, Winona LaDuke stops, jabs her finger
in the air and proclaims: ``I'll definitely do a housecleaning when I get to
Then Ralph Nader's vice presidential running mate breaks into laughter
at her declaration. Sound bites just aren't her style.
An author, activist and farmer, LaDuke lives in a lakeside home on a
dead-end gravel road in a part of northwest Minnesota where the prairie
gives way to the north woods.
The Ojibwe woman also ran with Nader in 1996. The two Harvard
graduates spent mere thousands and received 1 percent of the vote.
This time, they will be on the ballot in at least 45 states. They're aiming to
spend millions and are talking about winning.
To those who say victory is impossible, LaDuke points to the win by
another unlikely politician from her home state: former professional
wrestler, now Gov. Jesse Ventura.
The Nader-LaDuke campaign has been drawing support of up to 6
percent in some national polls. In California, Nader's support was as high
as 8 percent earlier this month, before dropping to 4 percent in the most
recent Field Poll.
David Gillespie, professor at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., and an
expert on third-party politics, says LaDuke complements the
background of Nader, the famous consumer advocate.
``He needed a person who represented a more multicultural
perspective,'' Gillespie says.
LaDuke, 41, says she is campaigning to help the poor and protect the environment. She wants to see a
constitutional amendment, based on Indian tradition, that would require all governmental decisions to be
examined with regard to their impact on people seven generations in the future.
She plans to campaign at least part of every week. But when she's on reservations, she will be making a soft sell.
American Indians vote at rates lower than their roughly 2 percent share of the general population. Some view
voting as a sign of acceptance of federal authority over sovereign tribes. It's a view her own husband, a leader of
a Michigan tribe, shares.
LaDuke's life and career are rooted in American Indian concerns and she's blunt about the problems facing her
community. ``Every social and economic statistic you don't want to have, we have,'' she laments.
But she also hopes her effort will not be seen only as a ``racially based ethnic campaign.''
She was born in Los Angeles to a Jewish mother and an American Indian father. Her grandmother was an early
She grew up in Ashland, Ore., where she placed second in the state as a high school debater. At 18, she made a
presentation before the United Nations on U.S. energy policy and Indian lands. After working on causes on
other reservations, she came to White Earth, home to her own family's tribe, in 1981.
She took a job as principal at a tribal high school and quickly became involved in a lawsuit to recover lands
taken from the tribe by the federal government and the logging industry. White Earth is larger than Rhode
Island, but the tribe owns less than 10 percent of the reservation land.
After losing the suit, LaDuke founded the nonprofit White Earth Land Recovery Project, which has so far
repurchased 1,300 acres of the reservation.
LaDuke says she is ``not inclined'' toward electoral politics and hasn't run for any elected offices other than the
vice presidency. Still, she has shown a willingness to play the game. When Dan Quayle had trouble spelling
potato in 1992, LaDuke made speeches in which she spelled it for him in Ojibwe.
Audrey Thayer, a political supporter and a member of the same religious lodge, says LaDuke is skilled at
communicating American Indian themes and concerns to nonnative audiences.
``She blossoms in the public eye,'' says Thayer. ``She's got that bicultural skill, which is rare in Indian country.''
American Indians have held few national elective posts, but there is precedent for LaDuke's ambitions. Charles
Curtis, a vice president under Herbert Hoover, was Kaw Indian.
LaDuke describes herself as a ``mother-of-three, parent-of-many'' and questions how ``men of privilege'' can be
expected to rule judiciously. She argues ``there is no real quality of life in America until there is quality of life
in the poorest regions of America.''
Can she and Nader win? Gillespie says no, but adds that the ticket is positioned to tap into a large body of voters
looking for an alternative to the two main parties. Says Gillespie: ``The Nader ticket, far more than the Reform
Party, is certainly the game in town to watch this year.''
LaDuke says she and Nader will win ``if the largest faction of this election those who don't usually vote vote
More information about the Southern-California-Permaculture