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Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace: A Model for Global Environmental Governance?

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This chapter is a speculative thought experiment: what might global environmental governance look like if it took as its model the founding constitution, known as the Great Law of Peace, of one of the oldest continuing democracies in world, the Confederacy of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)? This is not meant to be an introduction to Haudenosaunee history nor contemporary Haudenosaunee democracy. I am not an expert in either. I am not a citizen of the confederacy and I do not have Native heritage that I know of. I have, however, done considerable research and writing on environmental governance and decision-making, especially in the Great Lakes basin of North America and have written on the role of non-governmental organizations in international environmental politics. I have also served as organizer and Chair of a number of special environmental advisory groups to the Council of Chiefs of the Onondaga Nation. I have learned much through reading (Parker 1968, Wallace 1994 [1946], Schaaf and Swamp 2004, Grinde and Johansen 1991, Jemison and Schein 2000, Barreiro 1988, Annunziata 1995) and even more from listening to my Onondaga friends and neighbors, Chief Irving Powless Jr., Chief and Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, Chief Jake Edwards, Clan Mother Audrey Shenandoah, Jeanne Shenandoah, Freida Jacques, Ada Jacques, Faithkeeper Wendy Gonyea, the late Tadodaho Leon Shenandoah and the current Tadodaho Sid Hill. I am convinced that while our environmental efforts have most often focused on healing the earth, it's not the earth that needs healing but our relationship to it. The best way to make certain that this healing happens and is sustainable is to incorporate into our governing institutions practices that restore relationships of respect, gratitude and reciprocal care between humans, our nations and the rest of the natural world.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

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