BSC2009 – Indigenous Thinking on Sustainability – Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke is a notable author and native american from Minasotta.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Who is it that is going to fix things?

  • We look around our community and despite all of our shortcomings – it is community that holds the key to change. We need to learn how to be good neighbours to the world. Winona talked about her native seasons and how each “moon” is related to the environment, the fish, the fruit, the grains, the leaves changing, the maple syrup, the snow.
  • The worldview of empire, “British” Columbia, the Roman calendar – is not the only paradigm.
  • No society is perfect – but as a society do you have the humility, the persistence to work through the change.
  • Prophecies of Winona’s people – some people would come, some good some bad, many people would disappear, things would disappear (anthropologists), some would go to sleep (boarding schools, reservations), then there would be an awakening – some would be scorched some would be green.

We have a privilege to change the way the world works, we can stop a mountain top being removed, or oil being extracted from sands in Alberta. We have the power.

Get outside the Colonial Paradigm – it is possible that not all solutions come from the worldview in which you were raised.

The Tenants of Her Community

  • The Creator’s Law – The highest law, higher than the laws of man, synchronistic with the ways of earth
  • We are related to everything else.
  • There are natural cycles and systems
  • In each deliberation, we should consider the impact on the seventh generation. (Similar to Bill Rees’ example of seven generations of industrial economy).

The Tenants of North America

  • Man’s laws are superior to those of the world.
    • Allowable limits – chemicals and pollutants
    • Water transfers – there’s only so much water
    • Trading Credits
    • Farming practices
    • Single Species Forestry
    • Fisheries species crashes
    • The solution to pollution is not dilution – the solution is not creating it in the first place
  • Linear systems
    • Mining – Production – Garbage
    • Waste Management is the fastest growing industry
    • “Waste Water”
    • Social waste – prisons, unemployment
      • Criminalising being human.
    • No planning for future generations
    • Growth of corporate profits rules the decision making process
    • No long-term thinking on big issues.
  • No relation to the world ecosystem.
    • Climate collapse



  • Carbon Sequestration has to be forever – rather lets leave it in the ground
  • Nuclear power is not the answer
  • GM crops are not the answer to Climate Change
  • How do we recover ourselves
    • Recovery with the land
    • Recovery as spiritual beings
  • Her community spends 1/4 of their money on food, almost all of it outsourced.
    • Another 1/4 on energy, all of it outsourced.
    • You’ve lost 1/2 of the community wealth to the outside
  • Her community has:
    • Great People
    • Wild Rice
    • Wind – putting up wind turbines
    • Growing
      • local old corn varieties that are amazingly resilient and nutritious
      • providing first farm to school program on tribal land.
  • It’s not just the rich who need weatherization and solar energy
  • We need greater localization and efficiency in production and small scall industry.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.