Last month, Honor The Earth leader Winona Laduke resigned as one of the non-profit’s leaders after they lost a sexual harassment case to a former employee. After being hit with a nearly $1 million fine, Laduke and other Native Americans point out the noticeable systemic destruction of Indigenous-focused organizations.
Evidence Of Systemic Destruction?
Honor The Earth leaders presented no argument that the case was unjust. However, Laduke and other organization members were vehemently opposed to the court’s ruling, which the group felt was unfair and a prevalent example of Native discrimination.
Honor The Earth, a non-profit that raises awareness and support for Indigenous environmental issues, was served a $750,000 fine for damages and retaliation related to a sexual harassment case. “The court system is a punitive, white, carceral system that targets Native peoples,” Laduke stated in response to the fine.
Honor The Earth members quickly pointed out the jury contained no Indigenous peoples. In response, Laduke said it was “unsurprising” they received such a “staggering” fine, knowing the jury wasn’t diversified.
To be clear, Laduke posed no objection to the validity of sexual harassment found within her company. In fact, the environmental activist admitted she didn’t “rapidly and adequately act on the complex personnel and sexual harassment issues” the organization faced.
Designed To Prevent Indigenous Organizations?
Laduke co-founded Honor The Earth in 1993. Does one mishandled sexual harassment case justify Laduke leaving an activist organization she’s helped lead for 30 years? After all, Laduke wasn’t directly involved in the situation (meaning she was not the assaulter). Handfuls of White corporate executives maintain leadership positions after sexual assault or harassment was reported within their company.
To some, the way the Honor The Earth case played out is blatant evidence the court system is designed to target Native Americans. And even further, it is designed to work against Native people’s activism to save their own land.
Systemic Discrimination Running Rampant
The court system is riddled with systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples. Since European settlers landed on North American soil, there has been racism and systemic destruction of Native people, culture, and land.
But this colonialism, racism, and systemic destruction of Native people is not a thing of the past. Today, and in recent history, there are many examples of the American government clearly attempting to erase the past, including the people the country was built on.
Until 1978 (you read that right), U.S. child welfare agencies were legally allowed to take Native American children and remove them from their tribal communities with little to no justified reasoning.
What was the purpose of this? Many see the objective as identical to the boarding schools Native children were forced to attend. As R.H. Pratt promoted, the mission was to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”
Native American children were forced to forget everything about their cultural identity. Essentially, the mission was to remove any detail that made these children Native. And the rigid guidelines and kidnapping affected more than the Native children’s immediate mental and physical health. The generational trauma continues to impact Indigenous families today.
Boarding schools are only one of a thousand examples of White supremacy and systemic racism being blatantly practiced in the United States.
Was Honor The Earth yet another Indigenous group that was unjustly punished by the U.S. government? After all, Laduke and other members regularly attempted to save Native land and advocate for their people. And as soon as they got the chance, the U.S. hit Honor The Earth with a hefty, potentially financially straining fine.
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The NativeAmericans.com team reached out to Laduke regarding this topic and received no response on the matter.