Indianz.Com > News > ‘Much history to record and more to make’: Winona LaDuke’s environmental efforts set to continue
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‘Much history to record and more to make’
Winona LaDuke’s environmental efforts continue after verdict in sexual harassment case
Saturday, April 8, 2023

UPDATE: The hemp informational meeting on Friday, along with the Indigenous Hemp Conference on Saturday, have been canceled.

Despite resigning as executive director of Honor The Earth amid a sexual harassment and retaliation scandal that led to a $750,000 verdict against the organization, Winona LaDuke has made clear that she doesn’t plan on staying silent. As she put it on social media on Wednesday: “there is much history to record and more to make.”

So just what is LaDuke, a citizen of the White Earth Nation whose views on the environment have brought her worldwide attention, getting up to these days? Here’s a look at a few of the organizations, movements and initiatives she’s been a part of. Plus, a recap of the litigation that led to the stunning verdict.

Honor The Earth
LaDuke co-founded Honor The Earth in 1993 and served as its executive director up until her resignation this week. Notably, the press release from the Minnesota-based organization said she plans to “support the transition” from her leadership to that of Krystal Two Bulls, her replacement.

Such transitions are common in the non-profit world. When the National Congress of American Indians announced the departure of Jackie Pata after 18 years as executive director, the organization kept her on board while it prepared for her successor.

As for Honor The Earth, the transition includes a move of its office from Callaway to Ponsford. Both communities are located in Becker County, a place that LaDuke and the organization derided as racist in their public announcements on Wednesday.

According to, the organization’s initiatives include:

  • Just Transition – an effort to “oppose extraction, support a tribal regulatory push for environmental protection, strengthen renewable energy and food systems work in our region, and create a curriculum and learning tool for tribal youth.”
  • Resilient Food and Energy – an effort to promote food sovereignty and develop sustainable infrastructure in Indian Country.
  • Defending Our Homelands – an effort to project Ojibwe homelands from “disastrous extraction projects” and to prevent “cultural genocide.”
  • No Fossil Fuels in The Great Lakes – an effort to stop the ongoing expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the Great Lakes of the United States
  • Land Back – also known as the The Akiing Land Back Project, an effort to acquire land in Ponsford, Minnesota, in partnership with another organization called Akiing.

Non-profit tax filings, commonly referred to as 990s, for Honor The Earth can be found on the ProPublica Non-Profit Explorer, with the most recent filing covering the fiscal year ending June 2019. Annual reports produced by the organization are available on

White Earth Land Recovery Project
Winona LaDuke, far left, is seen near a solar panel at the White Earth Land Recovery Project in Callway, Minnesota, on May 28, 2009. Photo: Central Region Clean Energy Resource Team

White Earth Land Recovery Project
Winona LaDuke founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) in 1989 and served as its executive director for 25 years, according to the organization’s website. Margaret Rousu, another White Earth Nation citizen, is the current executive director.

“White Earth Land Recovery Project is committed to building a sustainable community on the White Earth Reservation,” states.

More specifically, the organization says on non-profit tax filings that it exists to “facilitate the recovery of the original land base of the White Earth Indian Reservation, while preserving and restoring traditional practices of sound land stewardship, language fluency, community development and strengthening our spiritual and cultural heritage.”

Like Honor The Earth, WELRP has been based in Callaway, Minnesota. According to the organization’s 2020 annual report, the project’s initiatives include:

  • Native Harvest – a retail store in Callaway that sells local and Ojibwe-produced goods, food and other items. Additionally, food is grown at the Native Harvest Farm.
  • Niijii Broadcast Corporation – also known as KKWE 89.9 FM, serving the local community through radio.

The organization also hosts the annual Great Lakes Indigenous Farming Conference. The 2023 event, took place March 9-12 in Cohasset, Minnesota.

Non-profit tax filings, commonly referred to as 990s, for the White Earth Land Recovery Project can be found on the ProPublica Non-Profit Explorer for the years 2011 through 2017. Subsequent filings are available on for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In 2017, Winona LaDuke co-founded Akiing, another organization with similar goals as Honor The Earth and the White Earth Land Recovery Project. Board members include Paul DeMain, a businessman and journalist who chairs the board at Honor The Earth, and Frank Bibeau, an attorney who represented Honor The Earth in the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.

“In 2017, we launched Akiing, a regional integrated community development initiative, aimed at restoring a regionally integrated Anishinaabe economy focused on food, energy, and value added production,” the website states.

Akiing is based in Ponsford, where Honor The Earth is moving. More specifically, both organizations have named the community of Pine Point, in Ponsford, as a place of interest for their efforts.

“Our community has been a poster child for tribal poverty in northern Minnesota,” the site reads.

As a “formal 501(c)3 partner of Honor the Earth,” Akiing has developed fice major programs, according to the website. They are:

Akiing has posted a 2022 end of year report on its website.

Anishinaabe Agriculture: Opening Words for 4th Annual Indigenous Hemp Conference with Winona LaDuke and Alex White Plume

Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm
Winona LaDuke owns an operates Winona Hemp and Heritage Farm, which is a commercial operation that includes a farm and a retail outlet in Osage, Minnesota.

According to, the operation works closely with the Anishinaabe Agricultural Institute, which is part of Akiing.

Indigenous Hemp and Cannabis Farmers Cooperative
Established in 2022, the Indigenous Hemp and Cannabis Farmers Cooperative is a group that counts Winona LaDuke’s hemp operation, the Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute and Akiing as members

“The Indigenous Hemp and Cannabis Farmers Cooperative was created in 2022, to support the development of seeds, Indigenous standards, cultivation, value added processing, appropriate technologies and fair-trade markets,” states on its website. “We are interested in serving farmers, and ensuring tribal participation in the hemp and cannabis market, as well as the benefits to come to the plant and the community.”

The cooperative is hosting an informational meeting for hemp farmers on Friday. The event is being held at the Grand River Casino and Resort, owned and operated by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Mobridge, South Dakota. [Update: An employee at the casino said the informational meeting was canceled, in a call placed after this story was published.]

The cooperative also has been promoting the 2023 Indigenous Hemp Conference, which has been scheduled to take place on Saturday at Oaya Luta Okolakiciye, a non-profit that offers a meeting space in Rapid City, South Dakota. LaDuke has been scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers. [Note: The page is not working as of early Friday afternoon.]

According to a description page for the event, the conference is being hosted by Akiing, Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm, Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute and Honor the Earth.

The Litigation
Margaret Campbell filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Honor The Earth in Becker County, Minnesota, in February 2019. The organization is the only named defendant — neither Winona LaDuke nor any individuals connected to the non-profit were named in the case.

According to the complaint, Michael Dahl started working for Honor The Earth after he became involved with the White Earth Land Recovery Project. Dahl’s treatment of Campbell while at the organization form the basis of the lawsuit. Dahl and LaDuke are citizens of the White Earth Nation. Campbell is non-Indian.

Honor The Earth attempted to have the case dismissed by arguing that the state court system lacked jurisdiction over activities occurring in Indian Country — namely the White Earth Nation. Judge Gretchen Thilmony, who joined the bench with professional and working experience in Indian law and policy, rejected the motion to dismiss in July 2019, noting that the organization is chartered in Minnesota, that its office is located outside of Indian Country and that the plaintiff is not a citizen of any federally recognized tribe.

“In the present case, a Minnesota citizen is suing a Minnesota corporation under a Minnesota law. Neither tribal immunity nor Public Law 280 apply to the present case,” Thilmony wrote in reference to a termination-era federal law that addresses state jurisdiction in Indian Country.

Honor The Earth appealed the decision in August 2019. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled against the organization in April 2020.

Honor The Earth filed another motion to dismiss the lawsuit in February 2021, this time linked to the administrative proceeding that Campbell went through with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Thilmony rejected the request in April 2021.

More than a year later, in June 2022, Thilmony determined that Honor The Earth “intentionally destroyed material evidence” in a manner that hindered Campbell’s pursuit of her claims. The organization was ordered to pay $52,960 to Gender Justice, which represented Campbell, as a result. The payment was due “on or before” March 1, according to the judge’s order.

A trial took place at the courthouse in Becker County from March 27 through March 30. LaDuke was present for much of the proceeding, according to a person who was there and posted about it on social media.

The jury delivered the verdict on the early evening of March 30, ruling against Honor The Earth for one county of sexual harassment and two counts of reprisal, or retaliation. A total of $750,000 was awarded to Campbell in compensatory and punitive damages.

On April 4, Thilmony issued the findings of fact, conclusions of law and order for judgment in the case. Honor The Earth has said it will not appeal the decision.

The document notes that in addition to the $750,000 verdict, Honor The Earth could be on the hook for additional payments to Campbell and her legal team, who prevailed in the case.

“The prevailing party on all respective claims is awarded costs and disbursements as allowed by law,” Thilmony wrote.

Honor The Earth has not publicly said where the money to pay for the lawsuit, to pay for the attorney fees that were due by March 1 and to pay for the verdict and any other costs is coming from.

The case is Margaret Campbell v. Honor The Earth, No. 03-CV-19-266. Documents can be accessed on Minnesota Court Records Online by going to the “Case Search” tab and entering 03-CV-19-266 under the “Case Number” option on the website.

Minnesota Court Records Online
A screenshot of the webpage for Minnesota Court Records Online (MCRO), available at

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‘I failed Molly Campbell’: Winona LaDuke says racism to blame for $750K verdict as board chair calls victim ‘white girl’ (April 6, 2023)
‘Deliberate disregard’: Honor The Earth liable in sexual harassment case (April 4, 2023)