Winona LaDuke has never been satisfied with doing nothing. She takesaction. And the results and effects of her hard work have rippled into the lives of all those around her. She has done so much that her efforts will outlive her name. Her cause will move many future generations to inherit her dreams much like the way she inherited the dreams of her ancestors. The two individuals who inspired LaDuke the most to follow her dreams were, of course, her parents. Her parents raised her in an environment where “doing the right thing” was encouraged.
In high school, LaDuke became very interested in the debate team with the support of a speech teacher at the school. She played a leading role on the debate team and they had great success. Their debate team won the state title continuously for six years. LaDuke had a passion for giving speeches because she was exposed to speaking out at an early age and she always had things to say.
LaDuke went on to earn a degree in economic development at Harvard University. There, she met Jimmy Durham, who is an eminent Cherokee activist. This further urged LaDuke to become more involved with issues troubling Native American. This intellectual atmosphere allowed LaDuke’s writing and speaking skills to flourish.
All these influences combined to produce the young LaDuke, a zealous Native American Environmental Activist who was able to speak before the United Nations at the early age of 18. She spoke excellently about issues plaguing the Native Americans and earned herself recognition as a heroic voice for Native American economic and environmental affairs.
She was deeply inspired by some of her close friends and family. They were Native American women who fought for their rights against all odds. One example is a couple of Shoshone women who have been struggling against the government’s attempt to sieze their land and other property. These women, who are in their seventies still have such strength and courage. Surely, LaDuke also will be able to maintain her fighting spirit as she gets older.
Her fellow cofounders of the Indigenous Women’s Network, Ingred, Marsha, and Nielock have motivated LaDuke to tackle more and more Indigenous rights issues. One of the women died from ovarian cancer because she did not have health care. Another had a son who was schizophrenic and was murdered by him. And the other was kidnapped and killed by the terrorist group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on a trip to visit the Uua Indians in Colombia. Knowing someone personally who has suffered a great injustice has motivated LaDuke to work harder to prevent such tragedies.