Monikawaaning Minis, Madeline Island, is a place I call home for some of the year. This Wisconsin island is the seventh resting place of the Ojibwe in our migration, the place we were instructed to go to by our prophets.

Madeline Island sits amidst the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, which, ironically, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, the great leader of the original Earth Day, annexed to make a national seashore.

It is strange: He did a good thing to challenge America to make a better way of living on this land, but at the same time, he lacked compassion for the people who had lived on this land for 9,000 years or so.

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We’re still challenged by a lack of compassion.

At Bristol Bay, Alaska, and in the deep north of Hudson Bay, Canada, mining companies are ready to create 10 billion tons of contaminated waste just above Native communities.

And Native nations are preparing themselves for the next round of nuclear proliferation. We are the ones who have dug the uranium. We are the ones who get the nuclear waste dumped on our land.

We are on the front lines of Earth Day, and we still have the same questions:

Why does the predator not change?

When will the brilliance of humanity restore an economy that is just and respectful?

And when will our lands have peace?

It is 40 years after the first Earth Day.

We’ve managed to fend off some major uranium mines, coal mines and clear-cuts.

In Wisconsin itself, the Mole Lake Band of Ojibwe fought a 28-year battle successfully to stop a big copper zinc mine. We’ve saved our planet from a few projects, but more are on the horizon.

Until we shift the paradigm and change the level of consumption, our Earth will still be threatened.

Look, 70 percent of the U.S. economy is based on consumption. That consumption has broken the bank — and polluted the environment.

Our Ojibwe people, if Senator Nelson had taken a moment to talk to us, would have offered a different way to go. Our teachings talk about a path that is green.

This is what an Earth-friendly energy system would look like:

We would have an entirely non-nuclear, non-fossil-fuel economy based on solar and wind. We would have localized solar heating panels to reduce combustion on most of our houses and perhaps solar water, as well. We would have 3.8 million wind turbines worldwide taking up a total area smaller than the size of Manhattan.

Native communities are struggling to create this next energy economy.

Take the Shakopee Band of Dakota. The tribe produces enough biodiesel to meet 100 percent of its summer diesel needs and is in the process finalizing a 1.5 MW wind turbine to satisfy a substantial portion of the community’s electricity demands.

In the Southwest, the shutdown of the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada, matched with the recent closure of the Black Mesa coal strip mine in Arizona, presents an opportunity for a just transition. Grassroots Navajo organizations have successfully pushed forward an innovative proposal to replace Mohave power with wind and solar. And the Navajo Nation has passed a Navajo green jobs bill. The Navajo Nation also has a moratorium on new uranium mining, and is fighting the federal agencies to enforce this moratorium.

Reducing expenses through efficiency makes sense, as does localizing and owning energy systems.

That is how a strong and durable economy is built. And a healthy one, with dignity at the point of production, not coal miners dying at the bottom of endless mazes in the Earth, or uranium miners leaving behind widows or children with birth defects.

I’ll soon be going back to Monikawaaning Minis, Madeline Island. This year, we’ll be building a wind turbine and growing more of our own traditional foods, among other green projects. We will keep up that fight, and we will make a better future.

Winona LaDuke has worked on environmental issues for some 30 years. She is the author of “Recovering the Sacred” (South End Press), the co-founder of the nonprofit group Honor the Earth ( and lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. She can be reached at

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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