Urge UN Forum on Indigenous Issues to Confront continued degradation of life-sustaining waters on Indigenous lands.
Published May 20, 2016
NEW YORK – Leaders of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy met privately with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday 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, will present the Secretary General with an engraved plaque featuring the Tree of Peace and the flag of the Confederacy, 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.”
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