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Winona LaDuke speaks at UND

UND hosted a panel Wednesday that criticized the university, indeed most universities, for essentially perpetuating the existing order, which panelists say is unjust and harmful to the environment.

LaDuke
Winona LaDuke talks with her friends and guests after having a tree planted in her honor in front of the Era Bell Thompson Mulitcultural Center at UND on Thursday. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

UND hosted a panel Wednesday that criticized the university, indeed most universities, for essentially perpetuating the existing order, which panelists say is unjust and harmful to the environment.

The featured guest was Winona LaDuke, American Indian activist, environmentalist and Ralph Nader's former running mate in the 2000 presidential campaign. She now works at the White Earth Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota.

Hundreds of students and faculty members were in the audience, which filled the Memorial Union's River Valley Room.

LaDuke said much of North Dakota's economy is unsustainable, singling out coal mining and agriculture, which extracts more out of aquifers than is put back in. The U.S. economy, too, is unsustainable, she said, because it's based on consumption of goods by consumers, the flipside of which is lots of garbage discarded into landfills.

Universities need to teach students to think cyclically, to consider the impact on future generations, she said, not practices that aren't sustainable.

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The atmosphere of the meeting harkened back to the late 1960s at times.

Matsimela Diop, director of Multicultural Student Services, the event's host, sported an afro and a dashiki, and mulled the treatment of black people by white society. He said he didn't like it when people assumed he was in town either to play football for UND or because the Air Force made him move here.

A member of Students for a Democratic Society, Isham Christie, accused UND of encouraging American imperialism and environmental degradation because the university's unmanned aircraft systems center helps the military, and its Energy and Environmental Research Center conducts research on clean coal.

The unmanned aircraft center also researches further civilian uses for such aircraft. The EERC also researches biomass, wind energy and hydrogen fuel cells.

LaDuke criticized universities for their lack of truly multicultural education. If there is multiculturalism, she said, "What you have is a Eurocentric education with interesting spices."

She didn't give examples of what multicultural education meant exactly, but did speak at length about her various experiences as an Ojibwe. She spoke of manoominike-giizis, which is the month of wild rice, and onaabani-giizis, the month when the snow forms icy crusts. It's good to hear words that aren't English, sometimes, she said. She spoke of how the Ojibwe hold relative-making ceremonies to adopt friends into the family, highlighting how the culture values relations over consumer goods.

Concluding, she said "change is inevitable" and everyone should give themselves "permission" to change.

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to ttran@gfherald.com .

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