Winona LaDuke recently spoke at the University of Denver’s Davis Auditorium, where she advocated for the creation of a multicultural democracy, in the sense of religion, culture, and identity in America.
Winona LaDuke is a huge advocate for Native American rights. As a graduate from Harvard she has earned her academic respect. However, Winona’s large support from people nationwide stems from something more than her academic merit.
To be completely honest, she was a genuinely cool individual. Let me explain what I mean by this; she was a straight shooter, she said what was on her mind and interacted with the crowd. She was vibrant and spoke with a noticeable sense of passion about the topics she covered. You could tell by her vocabulary that she was probably smarter than most people in the room, but when she addressed folks in the crowd, she spoke with a very regular and laid-back vocabulary. She was a natural “peoples person”, and it helped her gain the attention and admiration of the entire audience.
I went into the Winona LaDuke lecture with a very basic understanding of who she was and what she stood for. In the beginning of the lecture, Winona LaDuke spoke about who she was, where she came from, and what she’s done.
LaDuke is apart of the Ojibwe, although she grew up in Los Angeles, she was always very passionate about issues that surrounded many Native American tribes. After graduating from Harvard, she moved to her father’s reservation, the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, and took a job as principle of the local high school.
While working at the school she became involved in many different Native American activist groups, and has remained active for the past 30 years. Winona LaDuke even ran for vice-president under Ralph Nader for the Green Party ticket in 1996-2000. Now, in 2016, Winona LaDuke still lives on the reservation in Minnesota.
Her lecture at DU touched on many of the injustices Native Americans have been forced to endure, however, the general idea and main point of the lecture had a different focus.
Winona LaDuke championed the importance of a multicultural democracy. You might be asking yourself, “what does multicultural democracy mean?”
Don’t worry, I had no idea what it was either before entering the lecture, but I think LaDuke explained it very well in that,
“Cultural diversity is as important as biological diversity to sustainability. You don’t want a biological mono-crop; the Irish potato famine probably taught us that, and you don’t want a cultural mono-crop either. You don’t want everybody think the same and to be the same. You know, we had a long time of what’s known as the melting pot, and I’m not a fan of that, you know? I don’t want a puree, you know? Where everything is kind of the same and you can shop at Walmart.”
She further explained her reasoning for why it’s so vital that we maintain cultural diversity in our democracy. She sees the melting pot of America as a bad thing. She believes it destroys individual cultures. When you lose individual cultures, and combine them all into one, then you miss out on individual viewpoints, and without an array of perspectives, we are becoming one large mob that thinks the same way.
She tied this idea together by explaining the way that the Native American’s had run this country before colonization. They made decisions through democracy, but not before contemplating how that decision would affect the next 16 generations.
When America was colonized, the Europeans actually adopted many Native American ways of government. However, they left many behind. Winona LaDuke urged us to think past the present paradigm we, as Americans are living in, and open-mindedly consider the ways of other cultures. If we let our country continue to conform into one, then we will lose the the gift of a true democracy, where all cultures and perspectives can be reviewed and considered.
She claims that the general paradigm that we as Americans are living in today is one that disregards our planet, and if we do not appoint leaders with perspectives in favor of solving the problem, then we will all be forced to face the consequences together.