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Minnesota Republicans Call For Environmental Activist’s Resignation

Winona LaDuke 'didn't take allegations of pedophilia ... seriously,' state lawmaker says

Winona LaDuke / YouTube Screenshot
• February 26, 2021 3:34 pm

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Minnesota Republican lawmakers are calling on prominent environmental activist Winona LaDuke to resign from her environmental group after the Washington Free Beacon revealed that LaDuke dismissed allegations of pedophilia leveled against one of her top organizers.

State representative Steve Green highlighted the Free Beacon report in a Thursday statement that asked LaDuke to "resign immediately" from Honor the Earth, the climate activist group that LaDuke cofounded nearly three decades ago. Green noted that LaDuke "admitted that an organizer for Honor the Earth sexually assaulted a child" but did not take the incident seriously. He called the environmentalist's behavior "deeply troubling" and told the Free Beacon that he had previously "heard rumors" of inappropriate behavior by Honor the Earth leadership.

The pushback against LaDuke could jeopardize her effort to cancel pipeline projects across the Great Lakes region. The activist's climate work has helped her align with top Democrats in Minnesota, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. Republican state lawmaker Anne Neu Brindley derided both LaDuke and her Democratic colleagues for remaining silent on the issue. She called the lack of response "ironic," given that state Democrats are currently pushing a bill that would expand reporting requirements for those who have "reason to believe a child is being maltreated."

"This is our number one job as adults on this planet—to protect children. There has not been a peep about this, which is disgusting," Neu Brindley said. "I would hope that Democratic representatives working with Winona LaDuke recognize that by empowering her, they are explicitly condoning her disturbing behavior." 

Green and Neu Brindley's criticism comes just days after the Free Beacon reported on a July 2020 deposition, in which LaDuke discussed accusations that a former Honor the Earth organizer, Michael Dahl, sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy as a "camp counselor." LaDuke said the incident sprang from a "consensual" relationship that she was "not to judge." 

Court filings show that LaDuke also discussed the allegations in private Facebook messages. The activist said that Dahl "probably did have sex with this guy" but is not "a predator or pedophile as he's raised a lot of young men." LaDuke also expressed the need to "stand with mike," writing that "there's a lot of trust of him by young men and all of us."

LaDuke's deposition stemmed from a 2019 lawsuit in which former Honor the Earth employee Margaret Campbell accused LaDuke of placing her on leave after she pressed LaDuke to fire Dahl four years earlier.

LaDuke's attorney responded to Green's statement by attacking the Republican's political positions, calling his push for LaDuke's resignation a "disgusting exploitation for money and personal gain." He also said Campbell was placed on unpaid leave for violating Honor the Earth's "confidentiality" after the former employee detailed allegations against Dahl to the group's "allies and partner organizations." Campbell has asserted in court filings that Honor the Earth had no confidentiality policies in place.

LaDuke's handling of the situation prompted a rebuke from prominent environmental group 350.org, which refused to work with Honor the Earth until LaDuke adequately addressed Dahl's alleged behavior. LaDuke responded by accusing 350.org leader Bill McKibben of "white privilege and poor leadership" for his decision to "engage in policing the Native community." She also told McKibben that she personally conducted the investigation into the allegations against Dahl, which she found "not to be true" after spending "at least 60 hours" of her "precious time, digging."

McKibben has since lifted his moratorium on working with LaDuke. 350.org hosted the controversial activist at a Thursday "people power not pipelines" virtual rally.

Published under: Minnesota