What We Do
In our Anishinaabeg Prophecies, this time is known as the time of the Seventh Fire. In this time, we are told we will face a choice between two paths - one well-worn and scorched and a second not well worn and green. It will be our choice upon which path to embark. In Anishinaabeg Akiing, we are choosing the green path and lighting the Eighth Fire by heralding in a restorative and regenerative economy.
In 2017, we launched Akiing, a regional integrated community development initiative, aimed at restoring a regionally integrated Anishinaabe economy focused on food, energy, and value added production.
We begin in the village of Pine Point. Our community has been a poster child for tribal poverty in northern Minnesota. It has the highest rate of boarded homes, one out of three adult males are involved with the criminal justice system, and over half the community members are unemployed or out of the workforce. In 2013, the median income at Pine Point was $19,500 compared to $46,915 statewide. Families make up 81% of the population, but 88% of those families are single-parent homes. Therefore, because of the disadvantages and marginalization it can be said that nearly all Pine Point youth are "at risk" and are the core of our work for empowerment and healing.
Within the White Earth, over 85 % of the land is held by non-Native landholders, including the federal, state and county governments. For decades we have sought return of land, yet face structural and entrenched poverty. This work is about recovering and creating a new economy. Most importantly, in our words, lighting the Eighth Fire.
Our integrated work over the past thirty years has laid the groundwork to launch a regional sustainable economic development strategy for Anishinaabe Akiing.
Through this work we will reduce the economic losses in energy and fuel, and create a strong value-added integrated food and hemp fiber industry for northern Minnesota, and a model for Native communities nationally.
Who We Are
Paul DeMain is the Chief Executive Officer of Indian Country Communications, Inc., (ICC) of Hayward, Wisconsin. ICC produces a monthly news publication, online video, provides public relation consultation and operates a Trading Post Store on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Reservation in Northern, Wisconsin.
DeMain receives no compensation for sitting on the Board of Directors of Honor The Earth. DeMain will and does receive reimbursement for mileage, meals, lodging and other expenses related directly to activities of the Honor The Earth Foundation Board meetings.
Frank Bibeau, 60, was born into a well-traveled military family. Frank was born in Landstuhl, Germany and raised in Washington, D.C. His father, Ogema (or “boss” in Ojibwe), is an Ojibwe Native American from Minnesota. Although Frank was educated in D.C. during his youth, he always knew he would return to his heritage and the calling of a rural northland life.
Frank felt a transformation within himself as he watched the Trail of Broken Treaties culminate during the 1972 Bureau of Indian Affairs takeover in Washington, D.C. A group of around 500 American Indians and supporters of the American Indian Movement took over the interior building. The takeover was meant to voice concerns about poor living standards and treaty rights, which were created to ensure Native American governance and management on tribal land.
Bibeau lived in large urban settings that were wholly diverse but began to understand racism through the lens of the Black people’s civil rights movement. Frank’s interest in political science peaked; he joined the US Navy and then used the GI Bill to pursue higher education. He earned his Associate in Science degree at a community college in Virginia Beach before hitchhiking across the U.S.
Frank soon met his wife, Vicki, another military brat. She joined him in the adventure of cross-country travel, which allowed them to see the various cultures and demographics across the U.S. before marrying and settling in Ball Club, Minnesota.
For several years, the couple’s rustic cabin lacked electricity, running water or even a bathroom. Having learned how to make do with very little, Frank pursued his bachelor’s degree in political science at Bemidji State University. He said that his university professors were often dismayed with his handwritten papers, unaware that he was doing his school work by kerosene lamps and Coleman lantern.
As early as he can remember, Frank was a person who challenged paradigms and systems. He met them with anticipation, not fear. In 1986 at a legislative session, he met renowned environmentalist, economist, and activist Winona LaDuke. Winona, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, put a bug in Frank’s ear, advising him about all the work that needed to be done on behalf of the native people: protecting wild rice, sustainability, environment, food and water.
Frank worked for the state unemployment office in Bemidji and through the good fortune of abundant jobs, he found himself in a lay-off with an option to work in St. Paul. This is where the tide turned as he became an older law student at William Mitchell Law School. He graduated in 2000, after a continuum of challenging the norms. Unlike his much younger classmates, Frank enjoyed a formidable rouse of debate with his professors.
Upon his return to the Leech Lake area, Frank, now an attorney of law, was ready to champion against poverty-inducing assimilation as a byproduct, forced upon the Native Americans by our US Government during historic land grabs of treaty lands. Tribal sovereignty is the concept of the inherent authority of indigenous tribe to govern themselves within the borders of the United States.
Winona LaDuke is a rural development economist and author working on issues of Indigenous Economics , Food and Energy Policy. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, and is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth (HtE). She co-founded HtE with the Indigo Girls, as a platform to raise awareness of and money for indigenous struggles for environmental justice. She works nationally and internationally on the issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice alongside Indigenous communities. In her own community, she is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation-based non-profit organizations in the country. Globally and nationally, Winona is known as a leader in the issues of cultural-based sustainable development strategies, renewable energy, and sustainable food systems. She is one of the leaders in the work of protecting Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering.
In 2007, LaDuke was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, recognizing her leadership and community commitment. In 1994, LaDuke was nominated by Time magazine as one of America’s fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age. She has been awarded the Thomas Merton Award in 1996, Ms.Woman of the Year ( with the Indigo Girls in l997) , and the Reebok Human Rights Award, with which in part she began the White Earth Land Recovery Project. The White Earth Land Recovery Project has won many awards- including the prestigious 2003 International Slow Food Award for Biodiversity, recognizing the organization’s work to protect wild rice from patenting and genetic engineering. LaDuke was a co founder, and Board Co Chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network for fifteen years, and maintains a significant role in international advocacy for Indigenous people. This has included numerous presentations at United Nations forums.
A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities, she has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues. She also attended one year at the Massachussets Institute of Technology in the Community Fellows Program. The author of six books, including Recovering the Sacred, All our Relations. a novel- Last Standing Woman, and her newest work The Winona LaDuke Chronicles. She is widely recognized for her work on environmental and human rights issues.