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The 'State of Northern Minnesota' address: LaDuke pushes for greener economy in BSU lecture

Winona LaDuke, program director of Honor the Earth and former vice presidential candidate, delivers a lecture Tuesday evening at the American Indian Resource Center on the BSU campus. (Joe Bowen | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—On a night dominated by President Donald Trump's State of the Union Address, renowned American Indian leader and activist Winona LaDuke delivered an alternative of sorts Tuesday at BSU.

In a lecture LaDuke joked was a sort-of "State of Northern Minnesota," she outlined criticisms of the fossil fuel industry—North American pipeline projects and Enbridge Energy's Line 3 in particular—and advocated for a greener and less centralized economy.

The executive director of Honor the Earth sharply criticized the Calgary-based energy giant's plans to build a replacement oil pipeline through parts of northern Minnesota and police responses to protests over a different pipeline project at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, which might echo through Bemidji as the Line 3 pipeline replacement project forges ahead.

"A civil society should not be run by Canadian multinationals," said LaDuke, who showed a $266 trillion dollar invoice to Enbridge for carbon, forests, wetland and "social cost."

LaDuke said she wanted a "graceful transition" from the era of "extreme extraction" and fossil fuels.

"We didn't leave the stone age because we ran out of rocks," she said to a packed house at the university's American Indian Resource Center, eliciting a laugh. "You've just got to make conscious moves to evolve. And that's us...The leadership has to be us."

LaDuke held up smaller-scale, locally minded solar projects in Navajo Nation, Leech Lake and Ponsford, Minn., and said a "Green New Deal" was set to be announced on Wednesday by freshman congresswoman and rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

The deal, LaDuke said, includes sweeping investments in renewable energy and corporate tax reform.

"No time like the present to begin investing in the transition to an economy that will not stress us out," LaDuke said. "Because it will be more efficient, it will be much more local, and it will have a lot more jobs that are local."

LaDuke, 59, is a member of White Earth Nation and co-founder of Honor the Earth with a degree in economics from Harvard University. A longtime environmental activist, LaDuke was the Green Party's nominee for vice president on the ticket with presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000.

Her lecture on Tuesday, according to university staff, was sponsored by the university's leadership studies program; it's Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the American Indian Resource Center; and the school's honors program and sustainability office.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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