The guest column is by Matt Gordon, vice president and director of operations for Gordon Construction, Mahnomen. Gordon is an enrolled member of the White Earth Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
For much of this year we have watched our world dramatically be altered by the impacts of the COVID-19 virus. We did not have a chance to “ponder” what kind of change we wanted. The reality of the virus and the threat it represents did not give anyone that option.
The change is here, and we will be dealing with its impact for a long time.
Recently Winona LaDuke asked the question “What if we had a chance to change our world? How would you change it?” (Opinion, May 17 Tribune)
She asks this important question but then ignores how she has answered in the past.
LaDuke has been trying to “change our world” for years. What we need to realize and understand is her view of change contrasts with what is the right way to move us all forward together.
Her view is to threaten anyone who disagrees with her and ignore rules that the rest of us follow. We have seen her lead and advocate for this, and we understand what it means for the rest of us.
We do need to think about change and to also think about who we trust to lead us to what needs to be next. Based on what we have already seen, we don’t need and can’t afford the vision LaDuke wants to bring. Her involvement with the Line 3 replacement project proves this again and again.
In March 2018, to stop construction she threatened a “battle” involving thousands of activists, telling Minnesota Monthly: “This is the last pipeline … This is the last battle, and that battle is in Minnesota.”
In October of 2018, she was the featured speaker at Rainforest Action Network event in San Francisco where she told people, “If you missed getting arrested at Standing Rock, then come to Minnesota next year.”
What she calls change is really about bringing conflict and division to our communities at a time when we need to bring people to get people working and rebuild our civic foundation.
In her recent article, one of her top things she would like to do is “Create a healthy democracy. Be decent people and solve problems.”
We do need a healthy democracy free of the threats and fear she supports, advocates, and participates in on a regular basis. It’s hard to see how promising conflict and battles creates anything that could be called healthy.
In September 2019, she wrote an op-ed opposing the pipeline titled “Water Protectors Are Prepared for Battle. Join Us.”, in which she wrote that it was “time to stop the monsters and cannibals that plague our villages.”
I struggle with someone advocating for others to “be decent people” when she repeatedly makes claims that the union workers who will build Line 3 will bring sex trafficking to Minnesota, including: “we need a border to the north. And Minnesota doesn’t do so well in the protection of Native women either. And it’s about to get worse if Enbridge and the PUC get their way.”
She does this while ignoring claims by her former employees that the organization she created and runs, Honor the Earth, “overlooked sexual harassment among its ranks.”
LaDuke asks an important question that should not be ignored. We do need to come together to address this as we rebuild our communities and recover from that damage left by the virus.
We can be better. Unfortunately, this will only happen if we reject her view of what change means. Instead it’s time to rise together to a higher level that is good for everyone involved; not just to the benefit of one person’s point of view.