New York City- On Wednesday, May 18th, leaders of the Haudenosaunee meet privately with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to discuss self-determination, sovereignty, environmental concerns, and Indigenous Nations’ role at the United Nations.
The Haudenosaunee are taking their fight to restore Onondaga Lake –and by extension all Indigenous lands and waters contaminated and polluted by UN
Member States – to the United Nations, calling on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to raise their voices in support of restoring Mother Earth.
The seven-member Haudenosaunee delegation, led by Tadodaho (Chief) Sidney Hill of the Onondaga Nation, presented the Secretary General with an engraved plaque featuring the Tree of Peace and the Haiwatha Belt, which is comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations.
“We are honored to be received by the Secretary General in the hopes that we can continue to further diplomatic relations within the UN system and among UN agencies,” said Tadodaho Hill.
In comments prepared for delivery before the annual session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation), the president of the American Indian Law Alliance, will call upon the Permanent Forum to conduct a formal study on “the effects of the man-made devastation of our fresh waters on our relationship as Indigenous peoples with sacred waters, and its catastrophic effects on the health, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of our women, communities, Nations and our youth.”
“Many Indigenous Nations are facing the same issues in the protection of their lands and resources,” Lyons said in prepared remarks. “Our Indigenous sisters and brothers, while in peaceful protest, are being detained, criminalized, persecuted and killed daily, to protect their homelands from extractive industries and member states in their never-ending quest for the consumption of natural resources. Pipelines, toxic waste disposal, mining, dams, and extreme forms of resource extraction, such as hydraulic fracturing and tar sands, cover our original territories and we are left with the devastation.”
The Haudenosaunee have been engaged in a decades-long fight to restore Onondaga Lake from the devastation left behind by more than a century of chemical pollution and extractive mining by Honeywell International, which has landed the lake on the United States Superfund list of polluted lakes. Onondaga Lake is where, more than a millennium ago, the Peacemaker gathered the warring nations on its banks and created the Haudenosaunee Confederacy which has lasted more than 1,000 years.
The Haudenosaunee have nation-to- nation treaties with the United States, such as the 1793 Treaty of Canandaigua, signed on behalf of the new United States by President George Washington. However, U.S. federal courts have rebuffed Haudenosaunee attempts to assert their treaty rights to clean and usable waters, with courts saying the claims are too old and disruptive. As a sovereign nation, the Onondaga Nation has appealed to the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where their claim has been accepted for review.
The Haudenosaunee have also consistently advocated for the rights of all indigenous peoples to their lands through the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Haudenosaunee are grateful for the opportunity to meet with the Secretary General to discuss issues of concern.
“The Haudenosaunee have always been good stewards of the lake,” said Hill. “Now after more than a century of pollution by extractive and chemical industries permitted by the federal and state governments, we can no longer eat the fish, drink the water or swim in the lake. The United States’ environmental laws do not provide for full restoration of polluted lands or waters.”
STATEMENT by CHIEF SIDNEY HILL
The Right Honorable Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon,
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy would like to thank you for your work and support of Indigenous Peoples during your time as the Secretary-General. We look forward to your continuing support of Indigenous Peoples and for taking into account our perspectives towards climate change. We are desirous to have a good transition to the next Secretary-General and your support in that direction would be very helpful regarding the issues of Indigenous Peoples and what we perceive is the most important discussion today, global warming.
The Onondaga Nation is the seat of the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy- our union, based upon peace, equity and the power of union, is over a thousand years old. The confederacy is the basis of the fundamental principles of European colonists developing into the United States. We are just one of many Indigenous Nations around the world and we have all sacrificed to bring us to where we are today. The Haudenosaunee have been a catalyst in this direction following the spirit and will of Indigenous Peoples of the world.
The greatest lesson this United Nations has yet to learn is that we, the human species, are the environment. The sustainable principles of nature remain the guide for survival of the human species. In the dire situation of human survival, the United Nations has a responsibility to drop the issues of politics and rise to the principles of survival for all life on Earth. The voice of Indigenous Peoples must have a place. We continue to be silenced.
We have struggled against the directions and policies of member-states to silence the voices of Indigenous Peoples, including a continued strategy of modifying the principles of discourse and removing mention of Indigenous Peoples from the text of key decisions. For example, Indigenous Peoples were annexed from the final text of the Paris Agreement adopted by the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change less than six months ago. Safeguarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples is key to the efforts to address climate change. Indigenous Peoples have always been caretakers of Mother Earth and world leaders continue to have much to learn from us.
When will we listen to the voice of reason that will lead us to the path of survival? In spite of all of this, we will continue to work with world leaders towards policies that support the regeneration of nature. It is our perspective that member-states’ policies towards nature must fundamentally change in order to ensure the survival of the human species. We remain adamant in the defense of the future and the welfare of the Seven Generations yet to come. We thank you for your past support and we continue to seek your support in defense of Indigenous Peoples.
While we deliberate, the ice is melting.
Tadodaho Sidney Hill