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Author and Green Party candidate Winona LaDuke speaks at Book Festival

Author and environmental and human rights activist Winona LaDuke gave a presentation on her life's work Tuesday evening at Bemidji State University's American Indian Resource Center. Her talk was part of the Bemidji Public Library Book Festival happening this week. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

Holding up a small bag of corn above her head, Winona LaDuke, the vice presidential candidate for the Green Party ticket with Ralph Nader in 2000, hinted to her audience what her next book will be about.

"I'm writing a book on food and culture," LaDuke said.

The bag of corn she held up during her Tuesday evening talk at Bemidji State University's American Indian Resource Center were collected from a line of corn that originally grew on Bear Island, an island located in the middle of Leech Lake.

According to LaDuke, five years ago she secured a handful of Bear Island Flint corn from a seed repository. Since then, she and others have worked to restore that variety. Today, she said, she has corn fields of the Bear Island Flint corn, and has since worked with the Leech Lake reservation to repatriate this corn.

LaDuke's talk, part of the Bemidji Public Library's Book Festival happening this week, hit on issues she's been advocating for most of her life, such as sustainable development, renewable energy and food systems.

LaDuke is an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservation. She is founding director for the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which works to restore the original land base of the White Earth Reservation, while preserving traditional practices of land stewardship, language fluency and spiritual and cultural heritage.

The Harvard-educated LaDuke served as Ralph Nader's vice-presidential running mate on the Green Party ticket in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections.

She is the author of "Last Standing Woman" (fiction), "All Our Relations" (non-fiction), "In the Sugarbush" (children's non-fiction), and the collection of essays, "The Winona LaDuke Reader." Her most recent book is "Recovering the Sacred: the Power of Naming and Claiming."

During her talk, LaDuke, an internationally respected Native American and environmental activitist, talked of her of her journey as a writer and human rights activitist starting at an early age.

"I want to write into the future," she said. "I think that we get stuck into a day-to-day crisis mode. 'What do I dream is possible 10 years from now? What's your future going to be like as a community?' To me, those are the meaningful questions."

LaDuke went on to tell about her personal life living in Ponsford on the White Earth Reservation.

"I quit writing about two years ago because my house burned down," she said. "Then I had to take a stop."

Today, she said, she has a blessed life and will continue to fight hard for environmental and cultural rights. And she is ready to start her next book.

"I want to make a good healthy future," LaDuke said. "The reality is you have to be forward thinking. Exxon (Mobile Corporation) has a 50 year plan. I want to say 'What's it look like to make a positive future?' That's why I write and that's largely the work I do."

Bemidji Book Festival event planner Barb Treat said she was pleased to have (LaDuke) as a speaker for the Festival.

"We are just thrilled to have (LaDuke) and obviously there were a lot of people here to see her. The turnout has been wonderful this week," she said.

The Bemidji Book Festival continues today through Saturday, Aug. 14. For more information on speakers and events, visit

"The Festival is really a series of individual things," said Bemidji Public Library manager Paul Ericsson. "Just come to one (presentation). You don't have to go to them all. You can have time to just come to one presentation and you'll really enjoy it."