Winona LaDuke talks about ND, Standing Rock & uniting against fossil fuels to full house at Keen
Winona LaDuke walked about the front of the auditorium at Keene State College's Redfern Arts Center chatting quietly with those in the front rows who had come to hear her speak. She handed out postcards with contact information for the organization, Honor The Earth. As she mingled, the room continued to fill.
Upon introduction, LaDuke received a very warm welcome with strong applause as she made her way to the podium. The audience was probably filled two thirds with people age 30 and over, and one third students. Some were just learning about her work, others had been following for years.
She began by telling the audience about North Dakota, it's history with Native Americans, their struggles and how she, a resident of Minnesota, came to be involved in work there.
As LaDuke told stories in a voice soft, but confident that reflected her enduring spirit, the audience listened intently. From time to time she surprised the audience with humorous anecdotes that caused brief bursts of laughter, relieving the tension momentarily.
One zinger was shot at ND Governor Jack Dalrymple. Another story about her and others who rode their horses to oil wells at Enbridge only to find no one there because they had the day off for Columbus Day.
Another one mentioned the extreme wind on Indian reservations, something most people following live feeds from the camps have heard in abundance, and the incredible opportunity for more wind power than needed.
She spoke with pride about the camps at Standing Rock in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Thousands of veterans have started descending upon Standing Rock in support since last Sunday nights' violent attacks on peaceful, unarmed water protectors that continued until dawn. The use of rubber bullets, concussion grenades, nearly non-stop tear gas thrown at people and into medic tents and water cannons in that blasted activists for hours in temperatures below freezing by Morton County, ND state police, DAPL security and National Guard have been called human rights violations. 300 injuries were reported.
One woman who was hit in the face with a rubber bullet has a detached retina and hopes not to lose her eye. Another woman, who was hit in the arm by a concussion grenade survived a long wait as medics tried to get her to a hospital. There were multiple reports that she had her arm amputated. She has had multiple surgeries with many more ahead in an attempt to save the arm. A large chunk of muscle, bone, tendon and nerves was blown away when she was hit.
LaDuke admitted concern for the safety of all at the camps in the coming weeks - the countdown to Energy Transfer Partner's December 31st contract deadline to complete the pipeline. She knows that tensions are high and that actions could become violent, depending upon the support received and police response.
She mentioned several times the apparent awareness and knowledge of the audience, laughing about our having CSA's, yet existing in a place called, "New England. After speaking about an hour and a half, she reminded the audience how important it is to stay engaged, connect with others and to encourage divesting from fossil fuels in our personal lives, banking and with the colleges and organizations we support.
The evening ended with Winona LaDuke taking questions, two of which came from NED pipeline opponents Julia Steed Mawson, who drew in the audience as she spoke about the recent battle to stop Kinder Morgan's pipeline through Southern New Hampshire, and then Laura Lynch.
After waiting for others to chat and take selfies, our group of NED pipeline community organizers who had come to hear the famous Winona LaDuke speak, gathered for a photo, ending the evening on an uplifting note.
"Riding against the current of the oil"
NED pipeline organizers, now good friends from towns across Southern New Hampshire came together to hear environmentalist, economist and author Winona LaDuke speak at Keene State College. I was excited to learn that she is a fellow Antioch University alumna!
Left to right, top then bottom: Pat Martin, Carol DiPirro, Doug Whitbeck, Ken Lynch, Henri Vaillancourt, Mary Beth Raven, Gwen Whitbeck, Sue Durling, Stephanie Scherr, Julia Steed Mawson along with the humor and inspirational Winona LaDuke.
You can follow Stephanie's blog posts at WearPinkLiveGreen.org