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Published: Sunday, 11/6/2005

Native American feminist, environmentalist at UT

Winona LaDuke will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday in UT's Ingman Room. Winona LaDuke will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday in UT's Ingman Room.

Winona LaDuke holds the distinction of being the only American vice presidential candidate who also was a nursing mother.

It was in 2000, and she ran on the Green Party ticket with presidential candidate Ralph Nader. She had just given birth to her third child and took the baby on the campaign trail with her. It was, she said, exhausting.

But I think, basically, things would look different if more nursing mothers ran for office, she said, noting that educational, health care, and school lunch programs might be less likely targets of funding cuts.

Ms. LaDuke, 46, who also ran with Mr. Nader on the 1996 Green Party ticket, will speak Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the University of Toledo s Ingman Room. Her topic will be environmental policies and sustainability, and her visit is sponsored by UT s department of Women s and Gender Studies Feminism and Global Movements Leadership symposium.

Women comprise more than half the U.S. population but hold only about 10 percent of elected offices. The largest issues facing women in her view are the degrading quality of our environment and the unequal distribution of wealth.

Women and children are far more impacted by the disparity of income than men, she said.

Ms. LaDuke is raising five children ages 5 to 17, including a niece and nephew, on a lake in Ponsford, Minn. on the White Earth (Ojibwe) reservation. It s the poorest county in the state, she said, and the majority of families are headed by women who do not have health-care coverage.

As an indigenous-rights activist, she works on energy and environmental issues such as protecting the wild rice that grows in northern Minnesota s lakes and rivers from being polluted by patented rice. A patented variety grown near wild rice can result in the wild rice becoming pollinated by the patented rice. Not only does that corrupt the wild rice s genetic structure, wild-rice farmers can be sued by the company that patented the new variety for growing patented rice, she said.

Ms. LaDuke is director of Honor the Earth, a Native American foundation that focuses on energy policy and environmental issues. She s also the founding director of White Earth Land Recovery Project.

Her efforts on behalf of Native Americans have been recognized with several awards, including the 1988 Reebok Human Rights award, the Thomas Merton award, and the Ms. Woman of the Year award.

She graduated from Harvard and Antioch universities, and has written five books, including Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming (South End Press, 2005).

An Evening with Winona LaDuke is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Ingman Room of the Student Union at the University of Toledo. Admission is free. Information: 419-530-2233.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.

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