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Honor the Earth settles investigation with Minn. AG, pledges overhaul

Ekaterina Bolovtsova via Pexels

The settlement follows an investigation focused on former Executive Director Winona LaDuke's mishandling of finances and sexual harassment claims.

Environmental nonprofit Honor the Earth and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison reached a voluntary settlement, concluding Ellison’s investigation into the charity.

According to a news release Friday, Feb. 2, Honor the Earth has taken significant action to address its past governance issues and hired a forensic accountant, an attorney with nonprofit compliance experience, and a human resources consultant to examine the organization.

Much of Ellison’s investigation focused on Honor the Earth’s co-founder and former Executive Director Winona LaDuke. LaDuke dismissed a sexual harassment claim from an employee and made unauthorized payments to family members using the nonprofit’s funds, according to Ramsey County District Court filings.

Under Minnesota state law, nonprofit leaders are required to act in the best financial interests of their organization and adhere to strict governance standards.

LaDuke resigned in April 2023, after a jury found the organization liable for sexual harassment and retaliation and ordered the organization to pay $750,000 in actual and punitive damages.

Honor the Earth complied with the investigation following the verdict, the attorney general said. The investigation uncovered additional evidence of the former leadership’s dismissal of internal misconduct that exposed the organization to significant legal and financial liability.

The Assurance of Discontinuance requires Honor the Earth to continue its efforts to strengthen its governance.

In its response, Honor the Earth said it severed all ties with LaDuke and other organizations affiliated with her and developed a comprehensive long-term plan.

“We welcome this assurance as it signifies a new phase in Honor’s development, one that allows us to redirect our focus to the important issues at hand — fighting for our rights as Indigenous Peoples, while continuing to develop ways to repair harm within our community,” the response said.

Honor the Earth has appointed two new board members and plans to replace every remaining member who served before the 2023 jury verdict by the end of February, with the goal of having an “all-female Indigenous leadership team.”