Winona LaDuke: Ingrid Washinawatok's vision remains strong

Ingrid Washinawatok El Issa, 1957-1999. Photo by Michael Collopy via Wikipedia

Activist Winona LaDuke reflects on the life and times of the late Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa, an activist from the Menominee Nation who was murdered while helping an indigenous community in Colombia:
This week marks the 15th anniversary of the kidnapping and assassination of Menominee leader Ingrid Washinawatok El Issa. It also marks a new set of peace talks between the many forces of Colombia, in particular the government, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC.) Those talks are currently being held in Cuba.

Though her passing seems long ago now, I knew Ingrid well, and I often ask myself the question: “What would Ingrid do?” She was a good friend, and colleague of mine when we co-chaired the Indigenous Women’s Network together for a decade. In her life she led an exemplary role in the international indigenous community. Also known as Peqtaw-Metamoh (Flying Bird Woman), Ingrid served as the Chair of the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples, and as the Executive Director of the New York-based Fund for Four Directions.

She is also known for her death. She was kidnapped and assassinated March 4 in Venezuela. FARC kidnapped Ingrid along with Hawaiian activist Lahe’ena’e Gay and environmental activist Terence Freitas when they left U’wa territory after helping to create an Indigenous education system. The U’wa people were protecting their land from Occidental Petroleum’s oil development plans. She is missed always.

I ask the question, “What would Ingrid do?” when I am vexed with our world and my own people. I also ask that question because I believe some of Ingrid’s hopes are being actualized in peace talks being held in Cuba to address the longest hemispheric war.

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Winona LaDuke: What Would Ingrid Do? War and Peace (Indian Country Today 3/3)

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