From Emilie@ix.netcom.com Mon Oct 2 14:02:15 2000
Date: Sun, 1 Oct 2000 22:21:04 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Emilie F. Nichols" <Emilie@ix.netcom.com>
Subject: [toeslist] Interview With Winona LaDuke
From: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2000 9:33 AM
Subject: [toeslist] Interview With Winona LaDuke
Interview With Winona LaDuke
In These Times, (www.inthesetimes.com)
2 October 2000
While Al Gore and George W. Bush were coming down from their
convention-infomercial highs, Ralph Nader and his running mate,
Winona LaDuke, were barnstorming their way across the country and
gaining the attention of independent-minded voters. On August 25,
a Portland, Oregon rally for the Green Party ticket drew more than
10,000 people--larger than any public event for Bush or Gore this
Nader may be a familiar name. But who's Winona LaDuke? The 40-year-old
economist, writer and mother of three is also a leading voice for
American Indian rights. She lives with her family in White Earth,
an Anishinaabeg reservation in northern Minnesota, where she heads
the White Earth Land Recovery Project. LaDuke also co-chairs the
Indigenous Women's Network and acts as program director for Honor
the Earth, a national American Indian foundation.
In These Times' News Editor Kristin Kolb-Angelbeck caught up with
LaDuke before she left for Portland, during a pit-stop at her White
Q: What does your campaign offer to voters dissatisfied with Gore
A: Ralph and I are saying: Let's cut to the quick of the dilemma
we are facing in this society, which is the concentration of power
and wealth in the hands of a few and the growing disenfranchisement
of the vast majority of the American people. Al Gore never speaks
to the issue of the disparity of wealth in this society. He never
speaks to the issue of the growing corporate concentration of power,
the increasing disenfranchisement of the working class in this
country, or how hard it is to unionize.
Most job growth in the past few years has been in temp jobs and
low-wage jobs. More people are working at places like Wal-Mart for
minimum wage. All those people "happily" moving off welfare may
be employed, but they still are living at or below poverty level.
Bush and Gore do not speak to these people.
Q: What do you want to bring to the national political agenda?
A: First and foremost, we need to move the budget out of a military
economy. A third of the federal budget is spent on the military
right now--10 times what we spend on education. I have two children
in school and one of them had class in a trailer all last year.
But instead of education, they spend money on new missile systems.
We need to transform this military economy into a peacetime economy.
That transformation would drive not only economic and social justice,
but it would also do a lot for the environment. The military is
the single largest toxic producer in the country.
We also need to talk about demilitarizing our foreign policy. We're
the single largest purveyor of small weapons in the world. Today
most of the conflicts around the world are not fought with ICBMs
or F-16s, they're fought with small guns--if that's what you want
to call an M-16. During World War I, 95 percent of the people killed
were combatants. Today 90 percent of people killed in wars are
women and children. You do not sell guns to people who violate
human rights, who are going to use those guns to mow down women
and children. You don't give them guns with my tax dollars.
Q: Do you think Bush would do more harm to your community than
A: Actually, Republican presidents have not been that bad for
Indians. They've returned more land. Nixon was the best president
for Indian people, isn't that interesting? He gave back more land
and he supported more legislation benefiting Indian people than
any other president of the past 30 years.
Indians are suing the federal government for mismanagement of Indian
funds. It's the largest class-action lawsuit in history. Now why
do we have to sue them? Why couldn't they just say, "We're going
to fix it." Meanwhile, the Republicans say they will tidy that up
right away: It's on the Republican Indian platform.
Q: What's on your Indian platform?
A: Oh, I've got a big Indian platform. Invest in an alternative
energy policy. One of my big things is that the Great Plains is
considered the "Saudi Arabia of wind power." We need heavy investment
there. Plains tribes have all the potential in the world for wind
energy, but they don't have any money. Meanwhile, 65 percent of
research and development money in the Department of Energy over
the past 40 years has gone to nuclear power and coal. Wouldn't it
be great if we spent it researching and developing wind and solar
Also, set a living wage. Offer economic justice for poor communities.
Create economic enterprise zones based on a localized model. Begin
reconciliation and restitution programs similar to what [slave
reparations advocate] Randall Robinson talks about. Basically, good
countries should honor their treaties and good countries should
Q: What are the biggest obstacles facing your campaign?
A: One is lack of access to the public forum, especially the debates,
and the other is fear. The vast majority of the American electorate
that is progressive bases their [political] decisions on fear, not
on principle, and that's a shame. They're like, "Oh no, I can't
vote for him, this might happen." We've got to get past that.
Q: Is there really no difference for you between Gore and Bush?
A: I lost one of my best friends last year because of Al Gore. Her
name was Ingrid Washinawatok, and she was killed in Colombia in
March 1999. She went down there to help the U'wa [fight Occidental
Petroleum's plans to drill on their ancestral land] and was
assassinated by the FARC. Meanwhile, Gore has $500,000 worth of
Occidental stock and the U.S. government just gave $1.3 billion
in military aid to Colombia. They are the second largest recipient
of U.S. military aid, and basically it's used to blow away civilians.
What Bill Clinton and Al Gore do is insidious. They let Occidental
executives stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, and then they give military
aid to Colombia to help support their little oil developments down
there. I cannot support that man. I didn't even vote until 1996.
If I didn't have Ralph to vote for, I wouldn't vote.
Q: Why didn't you vote?
A: Because I just didn't believe in it. I wanted to vote for what
I believe in. Also because of my circumstances--a lot of Indian
people don't vote because they consider the United States a foreign
Q: Do you think more American Indians are going to vote in this
A: Yes. We have the lowest voter turnout of anybody. If I can
convince another 5 to 10 percent to vote, I'll feel really great.
Did you know there are 600,000 Indian voters in Oklahoma? And there
are 60,000 in Montana. Indians would be a pivotal voting group if
we would get out and vote.
Q: What do you think of the media coverage of your campaign? All
anybody really knows about you is that you're a Native American
woman and you're running with Ralph Nader.
A: That illustrates how trivialized our campaign is. What do they
say about Dick Cheney? They don't just say he's a rich white guy.
In my case, I got a degree [in economics] from Harvard; I got a
master's in world development from Antioch. I'm a rural economist
by training. I wrote a couple of books. I wrote a novel [Last
Standing Woman]. I have spent most of my life working on energy
policy issues for different Indian communities who are being dammed
or flooded or radiated or torn up for utilities in the East. I'm
also the only candidate whose annual income is under six digits.
Q: Looking at the protests against the WTO and the IMF, what do
you see as a positive economic alternative to globalization?
A: Localization--investing in local economies. Remember the rise
of the microbreweries a few years ago? We need to return to
micro-cheeseries, small farms. We need to value local markets. The
government needs to finance small businesses and stop corporate
mergers. I lost track after AOL bought Time Warner. It's like a
woman with 19 hyphenated last names. I have no idea who's who
anymore. Keep your own names, ladies.
You can't just exist on your island of political correctness. You
have to fight bad guys and make good. Strengthen your communities.
And you've got to vote.
I have three children. I have a six-month-old here that I'm nursing.
Q: How do you juggle campaigning and being a mom?
A: Wildly. I always bring the baby with me when I'm travelling. I
really had to trade in my family [to do this campaign]. So I try
to demand family time as much as I can. I also realize that to
ensure a good life for my kids, I have to retain my political
To be honest with you, as a woman, campaigning strikes me as a male
privilege. Guys can walk away from childcare. All those politicians
have someone else take care of their kids. But I'd rather be with
my kids than out shaking hands.
Q: As a woman and a mother, how do you see yourself bringing a
different perspective to politics?
A: I see the back end of all the laws the Washington guys write.
Living in a poor community, as a woman and as a mother, I feel the
absence of good education programming, of funding for daycare and
health programs for kids. Every four years, I see these guys talking
about what to do with women's bodies. But you don't hear them
talking about the quality of women's lives in between campaigns.
I think I bring a much more holistic perspective. If you care about
the quality of life for future generations, you better care about
the quality of life for women and children. And that better mean
clean air, clean water, good health care, good education. That's
your future. Your future is not in how many guns you have. Your
future is in the well-being of your kids.