Jim Tranquada
Winona LaDuke

Internationally renowned activist, environmentalist, and two-time vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke will speak at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 14 in Choi Auditorium as Occidental College's 2022 Phi Beta Kappa Speaker. The event is free and open to the public. Proof of vaccination is required.

LaDuke is the co-founder and program director of Honor the Earth, the only Native organization that provides both financial and organizing support for Indigenous environmental initiatives. A Native land rights activist, LaDuke also founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project, an award-winning grassroots organization dedicated to land recovery, preservation and restoration for the Anishinaabe people in Minnesota. She works with the Anishinaabeg to revive traditional practices and protect Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering. 

In 1985, LaDuke helped found the Indigenous Women’s Network, a group devoted to increasing the visibility of Native women and empowering them to participate in political and cultural processes. In 1996 and 2000, she ran for vice president alongside Ralph Nader on the Green Party Ticket. In 2016, she received an electoral vote, becoming the first person from the Green Party to do so.

Recognized internationally for her leadership and commitment to Indigenous economic and environmental concerns, LaDuke is a 2007 inductee in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was also nominated in 1994 by Time magazine as one of the country’s 50 most promising leaders under 40. A graduate of Harvard and Antioch universities, LaDuke has written extensively on Native American environmental issues and published multiple books, including the novel Last Standing Woman.

The Phi Beta Kappa Speakers Series was created in 2006 with a gift from New York entrepreneur Robert M. Ruenitz ’60 and his wife Jeri Hamilton through the Ruenitz Trust to honor the memory of Ruenitz’s parents, Esther Merriman Ruenitz and Dr. Robert C. Ruenitz. 

Founded in 1926, the Occidental Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is one of the first chapters of the country’s oldest academic honor society to be chartered at a liberal arts college in the western United States.

Previous Ruenitz lecturers have included Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the physician, scientist and activist who exposed the Flint water crisis; law professor, civil rights advocate and intersectional theorist Kimberle Crenshaw; John Holdren, climate and energy scientist and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for President Barack Obama; physicist and computer scientist Stephen Wolfram; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, MD; Ahmed Zewail, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist; author and educational critic Jonathan Kozol; social critic Judith Butler; author and activist Ayaan Hirsi; Bill Nye the Science Guy; medical activist Paul Farmer; mental health legal expert Elyn R. Saks; and psychologist and human memory expert Robert A. Bjork.