Winona LaDuke, the founder of environmental group Honor the Earth and key ally to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, is facing accusations that she downplayed the sexual assault of a minor for political reasons.
LaDuke, who is a leading anti-oil pipeline activist, dismissed the allegations that her top organizer, Michael Dahl, sexually assaulted a 15-year-old Native American boy while serving as a camp counselor. She did so even while privately acknowledging in messages and other legal proceedings that Dahl "probably did have sex" with the child.
When the allegations of pedophilia were brought to LaDuke in 2015, she responded on Facebook, downplaying the importance of the crime. LaDuke said that Dahl identified as "two-spirit," that the relationship with the boy was "consensual," and that she was "not to judge."
"Two-spirit" is a term used among Native American communities to refer to someone who "combined activities of both men and women with traits unique to their status as two-spirit people," according to the Indian Health Service. They are often viewed as being a separate gender from either man or woman.
When contacted, the attorney representing LaDuke refused to answer questions relating to the scandal, saying that the "focus for the next few days is Line 3 related goals." Line 3 is an oil pipeline project under construction in northern Minnesota that Honor the Earth is pressuring the Biden administration to shut down.
There is concern among some environmentalists that the Dahl pedophilia scandal could upend the group's efforts to stop the project.