Honor the Earth founder and executive director Winona LaDuke announced her resignation Wednesday after a jury ordered her organization to pay $750,000 in damages to a former employee in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
LaDuke is a prominent environmental activist who ran for vice president twice on the Green Party ticket and led the protests against the Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
She received an honorary degree from Macalester College last year. A Minnesota Public Radio affiliate sponsored a benefit concert for Honor the Earth in September 2022.
LaDuke’s organization was sued in 2019 by former employee Margaret Campbell, who accused Honor the Earth of failing to take allegations of sexual harassment and abuse seriously.
A Becker County jury awarded Campbell $750,000 in damages for claims of sexual harassment and retaliation on March 30.
LaDuke released a lengthy statement to Facebook Wednesday announcing her resignation.
“But in 2014-2015, I failed Molly Campbell. She was a contract employee and the laws were not clear to me. For that, I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the hurt caused to Ms. Campbell, and I am sorry for the broader harm that resulted too,” LaDuke said.
But she then appeared to criticize Campbell for seeking to address the matter in the state courts rather than through a “restorative justice process.”
“Instead, Ms. Campbell sued Honor the Earth in State court, seeking monetary damages. Ms. Campbell, represented by Gender Justice, brought this case to trial in State court, in a northern county, in the same region where we fought the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, with a white judge and a nearly all-white jury. In Becker County, where Native people make up only 7% of the population, 38% of the people in jail are Native. The court system is a punitive, white, carceral system that targets Native Peoples. In such a forum, it was unsurprising that the result would be a staggering and disproportionate fine against Honor the Earth,” she said.
NDN Collective, a financial supporter of Honor the Earth, said in a statement that it “came as a surprise to learn of the lawsuit.” The organization said its “grantee-partnership” with Honor the Earth comes to an end in April and “any future partnership will hinge on the integrity and demonstration of community harmony and safety protocols.”
According to a report from Center of the American Experiment, Honor the Earth has received funding from the Tides Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and the McKnight Foundation. Honor the Earth’s total revenue exceeded $7 million in 2022.
It is currently asking the Minnesota Legislature for funding for a museum project.