Winona LaDuke: Seizures & Militarization of Indigenous Lands & the Recovery of Native Seeds & Sustainable, Land-Based Economies

Winona LaDuke: Seizures & Militarization of Indigenous Lands & the Recovery of Native Seeds & Sustainable, Land-Based Economies

Posted 15 May 2011, by Jean Downey, Kimberly Hughes and Jen Teeter, Ten Thousand Things,

Winona LaDuke’s analysis of military seizures and ongoing militarization of indigenous tribal lands in North America sounds a lot like similar military land seizures and ongoing militarization of Hawai’i, Okinawa, Korea (Jeju Island), Guam, Diego Garcia and Columbia…

LaDuke, founding director of White Earth Land Recovery Project, and executive director of Honor the Earthleads a movement recovering traditional tribal sustainable economies based on food sovereignty. The daugher of a Korean war resister inherited her struggle against excessive militarization and military destruction of civilians and our planet.

The U.S. military is the larger consumer of oil in the world and the largest polluter. From the thousands of nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and American Southwest (and Mississippi) that started in the 1940s and 1950’s that vaporized atolls and spread radioactive contamination throughout the Asia-Pacific, to the Vietnam War-era use of napalm and Agent Orange to defoliate and poison Vietnam (and military bases in South Korea and Okinawa), to irradiation in Iraq and Afghanistan (and in Okinawa during “tests”) by depleted uranium uranium.

More than four fifths of the people killed in war have been civilians. Globally there are some 16 million refugees from war.

– Winona LaDuke, The Militarization of Indian Country

Juan Gonzalez recently interviewed the Native American (Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe)) activist and writer at Democracy Now! “Native American Activist, Author Winona LaDuke on “The Militarization of Indian Country” and Obama Admin’s “Lip Service” to Indigenous Rights”in which LaDuke connects the dots between uranium mining on indigenous lands, the thousands of experimental nuclear bombings on indigenous lands, the poisoning of indigenous land and people, and the nuclear accident in Fukushima:

WINONA LADUKE…The reality is, is that the U.S. military still has individuals dressed—the Seventh Cavalry, that went in in Shock and Awe, is the same cavalry that massacred indigenous people, the Lakota people, at Wounded Knee in 1890. You know, that is the reality of military nomenclature and how the military basically uses native people and native imagery to continue its global war and its global empire practices.

AMY GOODMAN: Winona, you begin your book on the militarization of Native America at Fort Sill, the U.S. Army post near Lawton, Oklahoma. We broadcast from there about a year ago in that area. Why Fort Sill? What is the significance of Fort Sill for Native America?

WINONA LADUKE:Well, you know, that is where the Apaches themselves were incarcerated for 27 years for the crime of being Apache. There are two cemeteries there, and those cemeteries—one of those cemeteries is full of Apaches, including Geronimo, who did die there. But it is emblematic of Indian Country’s domination by military bases and the military itself. You’ve got over 17 reservations named after—they’re still called Fort something, you know? Fort Hall is, you know, one of them. Fort Yates. You know, it is pervasive, the military domination of Indian Country.

Most of the land takings that have occurred for the military, whether in Alaska, in Hawaii, or in what is known as the continental United States, have been takings from native land. Some of—you know, they say that the Lakota Nation, in the Lakota Nation’s traditional territory, as guaranteed under the Treaty of 1868 or the 1851 Treaty, would be the third greatest nuclear power in the world. You know, those considerations indicate how pervasive historically the military has been in native history and remains today in terms of land occupation.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Winona, in your book, you go through a lot of these takings of land and what it’s been used for. Obviously, the nuclear accident following the tsunami in Japan has been in the news a lot lately, but you talk about the origins of the United States’s own nuclear power, the mining of uranium, the development of Los Alamos Laboratory. Could you talk about that and its connection to Indian Country?

WINONA LADUKE: You know, native people—about two-thirds of the uranium in the United States is on indigenous lands. On a worldwide scale, about 70 percent of the uranium is either in Aboriginal lands in Australia or up in the Subarctic of Canada, where native people are still fighting uranium mining. And now, with both nuclearization and the potential reboot of a nuclear industry, they’re trying to open uranium mines on the sacred Grand Canyon.

You know, we have been, from the beginning, heavily impacted by radiation exposure from the U.S. military, you know, continuing on to nuclear testing, whether in the Pacific or whether the 1,100 nuclear weapons that were detonated over Western Shoshone territory. You know, our peoples have been heavily impacted by radiation, let alone nerve gas testing. You’ve got nerve gas dumps at Umatilla. You’ve got a nerve gas dump at the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation. You have, you know, weapons bases, and the military is the largest polluter in the world. And a lot of that pollution, in what is known as the United States, or some of us would refer to as occupied Indian Country, is in fact all heavily impacting Indian people or indigenous communities still.

JUAN GONZALEZ: You also talk about the radiation experimentation in Alaska in the 1960s in your book. I don’t think—very few people have heard of that. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

WINONA LADUKE: Yeah. You know, I was an undergraduate at Harvard, and I remember I used to—I researched all this really bizarre data, but there was this project at Point Hope, where the military wanted to look at the radiation lichen-caribou-man cycle, of bio-accumulation of radiation. And so, they went into the Arctic. You know, there’s widespread testing on native people, because we’re isolated populations. We’re basically—you know, most of us in that era were genetically pretty similar. It was a good test population, and there was no accountability. You know, testing has occurred, widespread. But in that, they wanted to test, so the village of Point Hope was basically irradiated. Didn’t tell the people. Documents were declassified in the 1990s. And all that time, this community bore a burden of nuclear exposure that came from the Nevada test site, you know, and in testing those communities.

You know, Alaska itself is full of nuclear and toxic waste dumps from the military, over 700 separate, including, you know, perhaps one of the least known, but I did talk about it in this book, The Militarization of Indian Country, VX Lake, where they happened to forget about some nerve gas canisters, a whole bunch of them, and they put them out in the middle of the lake, and they sank to the bottom. And then they remembered a few years later, and then they had to drain the darn lake to go get all these—you know, all the nerve gas, VX, out of the bottom of the lake. And, you know, they renamed it Blueberry Lake, but it’s still known as VX Lake to anybody who’s up there.

And, you know, the unaccountability of the military, above reproach, having such a huge impact on a worldwide scale, having such a huge take at the federal trough, the federal budget, and in indigenous communities an absolutely huge impact in terms of the environmental consequences of militarization.

In Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming, LaDuke explores these not only exploitative, but also sacrilegious actions perpetrated upon indigenous peoples. The U.S. military nuclear bombed Western Shoshone land over 1,000 times. The U.S. military also repeatedly bombed Kaho’olawe after turning the holy Hawaiian island into a bombing range, destroying sacred shrines and cracking the aquifer before Congress placed a moratorium on the bombing.

Awá Indigenous Peoples mobilize against construction of military base in Columbia. Image: Fellowship of Reconciliation

Indigenous Jeju Islanders protest the construction of a nuclear military base at Gangjeong Village, on the southern coast, the site of South Korea's only natural dolphin habitat. The signs read "No naval base on the Island of Peace." More on the ongoing protest at No Base Stories of Korea

Okinawa rally on Nov. 8, 2010 to protesting U.S. plans to build a new base at Oura Bay, an environmentally sensitive habitat of the Okinawa dugong (manatee). Image:

The 1954 U.S. "Castle Bravo" thermonuclear hydrogen test bombing of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall archipelago destroyed the home of the indigenous inhabitants, rendering what was left of the islands unfit for human life. Senator Tomaki Juda describes the devastation ("equal to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs") in "Bikini and the Hydrogen Bomb."

Sacred Native American (Shoshone) land at the Nevada Test Site, the most nuclear bombed place on earth. The image is from Carlos DeMenezes' 2005 documentary, "Trespassing." The film features Japanese radiation survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, describing their participation in the global nuclear abolition movement at the Nevada Test Site. Examining the intersections of indigenous rights, land rights, uranium mining, nuclear testing, and the disposal of nuclear waste, the film explores the extraordinary efforts that indigenous activists — in solidarity with Hibakusha, atomic veterans, environmentalist, and nuclear abolitionists, and — have undertaken, to protect sacred lands, the air, the water, and people from desecration by further weapons testing and nuclear waste.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, Okinawan protection of the dugong, a totemic animal declared a National Monument and Chamorro protection of Pagat, an ancient ancestral village, are both best understood within sacred contexts. The U.S. military proposal to destroy the last habitat of the Okinawa dugong to make way for a port for destroyers equipped with missile systems may be compared to a proposal to raze the Vatican to build a nuclear missile complex. Similarly, the U.S. military proposal to turn Pagat into a live fire range may be compared to turning Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, into a live fire range.

Dsrespect for indigenous issues in the Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world stem from parallel disrespect for Native American tribes that LaDuke charts in detail in this call to honor our planet and ancient first peoples and cultures. Revitalized indigenous gardens are not just about “food,” but also about remembrance and renewal of a worldview that recognizes the miraculous web of life.

The perspectives of traditional food movement supported by LaDuke (that, not surprisingly, dovetails with the international Slow Food Movement) are being increasingly vindicated by the mainstream: The 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) Report, a joint project of the U.N. and the World Bank, among other agencies brought together 400 experts who worked for 4.5 years to explore the most efficient, productive, and sustainable strategy for feeding the world. Their conclusion: the world must shift from chemical- and fossil-fuel dependent agriculture to non-toxic, sustainable practices. The study recommended small-scale and mid-scale agroecological farming as the only hope for feeding the world safe, healthy food, without destroying our increasingly limited natural capital.

More on the White Earth Land Recovery Project:

We work to continue, revive, and protect our native seeds, heritage crops, naturally grown fruits, animals, wild plants, traditions and knowledge of our indigenous and land-based communities; for the purpose of maintaining and continuing our culture and resisting the global, industrialized food system that can corrupt our health, freedom, and culture through inappropriate food production and genetic engineering.

Sustainable Tribal Economies, cover

Petition: Save Jeju Island/No Naval Base

(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for more content associated with this article.)


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by John on November 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    My question is, what would the u.s. goverment (Army, Air Force?) do with someone they caught stumbling around out there in Nevada.


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