Winona LaDuke steps down from her Honor the Earth nonprofit

Prominent environmental activist leaves the organization she founded, after a lawsuit defeat.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that LaDuke stepped down from the organization she founded after the nonprofit lost a $750,000 lawsuit to a former employee who accused the organization of allowing sexual harassment.

The two-time Green Party Vice Presidential candidate is best known these days for founding the environmental nonprofit Honor the Earth in 2012, trademarking the phrase in that same year. LaDuke dates the movement’s founding to 1993. The nonprofit’s board of directors still includes co-founders and Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.

LaDuke and Honor the Earth featured prominently in recent unsuccessful efforts to fight the Line 3 crude oil pipeline in northern Minnesota.

The Harvard-trained, native-American activist is nothing if not entrepreneurial. Separating the affairs of Honor the Earth from LaDuke’s other enterprises may take some effort.

According to records on file with the MN Secretary of State’s office, LaDuke also founded the for-profit Spotted Horse Coffees and Publishing LLC in 2017. Her coffees are for sale on a separate Honor the Earth merchandise website. Sadly, some of the other the coffee-related merchandise appears to be sold out. The merchandise site is separate, but is linked to by the nonprofit’s website.

The most recent tax return for Honor the Earth dates from 2019 (the IRS is way behind). That year, LaDuke is shown receiving total annual compensation of about $120,000 from the group.

Also recorded in the 2019 Form 990 tax return is a transaction where the non-profit purchased $2,061 in Spotted Horse coffee from LaDuke’s company. The 2018 return reports a purchase of $260 in coffee and an unrelated personal loan to LaDuke for $4,999.

In 2017, the nonprofit reported purchasing $23,375 in coffee from LaDuke. In 2015, the Honor nonprofit reports making a loan to LaDuke in the amount of $1,705.

A 2022 annual report for Honor the Earth shows revenue above $7 million.

Another activity of Honor the Earth is re-directing grant money to other nonprofits. In 2019, the largest Honor the Earth grant ($200,000) went to another LaDuke nonprofit Akiing 8th Fire, founded in 2018. Likewise, Honor’s largest grant in 2018 ($155,000) went to Akiing.

The $200,000 in 2019 and $155,000 in 2018 received from Honor represented Akiing 8th Fire’s entire revenue for those two years. As described in the IRS returns, the purpose of the grants was to form the for-profit Akiing Land Company LLC (founded by LaDuke in 2018) to purchase land for a cultural camp.

There is a related solar energy effort. There is also an unrelated hemp farm, incorporated by LaDuke as a for-profit enterprise in 2017.

A 2022 annual report for the Akiing nonprofit reports income above $4 million.

All of the various Honor and Akiing corporate entities share the same mailing address in Callaway, MN.

As an IRS-registered tax-exempt nonprofit, the parent nonprofit, Honor the Earth, is not required to disclose the identity of its donors. However, it does so in the annual reports published on its website.

Some details of past donations to the group can be found on donor websites.

The San Francisco-based, far-left Tides Foundation lists Honor the Earth among its grantees. The New York-based, George Soros-funded Open Society Foundation reports giving Honor $70,000 in 2017.

The McKnight Foundation of Minneapolis (3M family fortune) reports giving $300,000 to Honor in 2021.

Some names that jump out from Honor’s 2022 list of donors include the political nonprofit Minnesota Voice, which reportedly gave Honor more than $100,000 last year. Also on the $100,000+ donor list is the Tides Foundation and the local climate activist group MN350. Among those included on the $50,000+ list are the apparel company Patagonia, the Rockefeller Family Fund and the Indigo Girls themselves.

The MN Reformer points out that another of Honor’s funding partners, NDN Collective, is parting ways the group. NDN issued a statement that revealed their current grant agreement ends later this month.

We’ll see what the future holds for Honor the Earth.