Winona LaDuke is a Native American activist and former political candidate. She is a member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg, of the Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) tribe. She is best known in the general public as the Vice Presidential candidate for Ralph Nader in the Green Party during the 1996 and 2000 elections. In both 2004 and 2008, however, she endorsed the Democratic candidates for president, John Kerry and Barack Obama.
Winona LaDuke was born to a Native American father and a Jewish mother in Los Angeles in 1959. She was raised in Ashland, Oregon, and attended Harvard University, earning a degree in rural economic development. She then went to the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. The White Earth Indian Reservation, also known as Gaa-waabaabiganikaag, is the largest reservation in the state. Although sometimes identified as a Chippewa or Ojibwe reservation, most residents prefer to identify as Anishinaabe.
Originally, White Earth was some 1,300 square miles (3,400 sq. km) in size, but during the end of the 19th century, a great deal of that land was seized and sold to either private buyers or to the United States government, largely under the Dawes and Nelson Acts. Winona LaDuke formed, in 1989, the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which seeks through political action to recover the land that was seized from its people, a cause that has to date been relatively successful.
Winona LaDuke has been either formative or integral in a number of Native American rights organizations. This work includes the Women of All Red Nations, which brings public attention to the extreme levels of forced sterilization brought upon female Native Americans, and the Indigenous Women’s Network. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Honor the Earth organization, which aims to gain widespread support and awareness for environmental issues integral to Native Americans, and to work towards sustaining Native communities.
LaDuke is also a critically-acclaimed author, with books such as Last Standing Woman in 1997, and Recovering the Sacred: the Power of Naming and Claiming in 2005. She has also made appearances in documentary films, such as 2002’s The Main Stream and 1997’s Anthem. She continues to make public appearances, speaking on a wide range of issues relevant both to Native rights and broader environmental concerns.
In 1996, Winona LaDuke was chosen as the Vice Presidential candidate for the United States Green Party in most states, with Ralph Nader as the Presidential candidate. Their ticket took 685,297 votes, for roughly 0.7% of the total vote, compared with other third-party candidate Ross Perot, who received more than 8 million votes, at 8.4% of the total vote. In 2000 Winona LaDuke was again chosen as the Green Party’s Vice Presidential candidate, this time on all 44 states that the Green Party appeared on. The ticket won 2,882,955 votes nationally, for 2.7% of the total vote. In 2004, Winona LaDuke supported Democrat Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primary, and after the primary supported Democrat John Kerry.