Monday, November 12, 2007

All Our Relations

They say every story has two sides. Well, the other side to this story better be pretty damn good, because Winona Laduke has shown us the heart-wrenching Indian perspective in her collection of non-fiction titled "All Our Relations". Each chapter of the book addresses a specific environmental issue that various Indian tribes are facing. Although surely some accountability must lay with the Indian leaders themselves, many of the challenges these low-income communities face stem from outside decision making.

In an ironic twist, it appears that the "worthless" land that was designated for Native American reservations is actually enormously rich in natural resources. Unfortunately, the BIA, mining companies, and the military have used their power to successfully exploit this situation without due compensation to the peoples whose land it is, the Indians.

The general message of this book is that the Indian people who want to live a lifestyle more in accordance with their traditional values are being denied that right through the environmental devastation of their land. Some of the abuses that are occuring on Indian lands RIGHT NOW are: strip mining of uranium, nuclear waste storage, industrial pollution, clear-cutting of forests, and land appropriation. If this were happening to middle-class America and affecting our cities, we would be outraged.

Winona Laduke is perhaps best known as the Vice-Presidential running mate with Ralph Nader in 2000. She is a leading voice within the Native American leadership that argues for a holistic approach to politics. Ms. Laduke views each situation as a combination of environmental, economic, political and, above all, spiritual factors. I decided I wanted to read this collection of non-fiction after reading an interview with her and religious scholar Huston Smith. Of all the speakers in that book, she stood out to me as incredibly poised, compassionate, and intelligent. This book did not disappoint. I feel like I gained a tremendous insight into the world of activist Native Americans. More than that, I feel inspired to get better informed and see what part I can play to support these causes.

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