Crossroads honored Indigenous People’s Day with an address by acclaimed Native American environmental change advocate Winona LaDuke, hosted by the School’s Equity & Justice Institute. The event was the second in this year’s Younes and Soraya Nazarian Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series.
Speaking to a packed house of parents, teachers, students, staff and members of the greater community, LaDuke posed pressing questions about the current climate crisis, challenging listeners to consider, “Where are we going? Because we’re all going together.”
The event began with a traditional prayer to the four directions performed by Tina Calderon, who is of the Gabrieliño-Tongva and Chumash tribes. Joseph Quintana of the United American Indian Involvement and a mayoral appointee to the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission followed with opening remarks. Quintana shared how American Indians are uplifting their communities both internally and by working with external organizations. He encouraged the American Indians in the audience to be proud of their heritage and language, and to not be silenced.
"In honoring those whose lives, culture and resources were the ransom for the construction of an American empire, it is imperative to have authentic voices leading efforts to reestablish the historical narrative,” reflects Equity & Justice Institute Founding Director Derric J. Johnson, who introduced LaDuke. “This is particularly true in regard to respecting the earth, fighting for environmental justice and preserving our natural resources. Winona LaDuke has been, and continues to be, a stalwart, revolutionary figure for sovereign lands and Native communities."
In her speech, LaDuke advocated for a “renaissance” that would build toward a sustainable future motivated by concern for the environment rather than industrialization. She engaged in a post-lecture Q&A with the audience in which she stressed the importance of maintaining hope and the belief that anything is possible.
LaDuke works with Indigenous communities on issues of climate change, renewable energy and environmental justice in her role as program director of Honor the Earth. She is also the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation-based nonprofit organizations in the country. She has written extensively on issues of sovereignty and sustainable development and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series is free and open to the public. Upcoming engagements include presentations by Zenon Neumark (Dec. 17) and Robin DiAngelo (March 4, 2020) as well as an environmental justice symposium (April 22, 2020). For more information, visit xrds.org/speakerseries