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Promoting Ecological Integrity Through an Alliance of an Indigenous Nation and its Neighbours: A Case Study of Opposition to Industrial Scale Gas Drilling on Haudenosaunee Land

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At the 2010 Vancouver meeting of the Global Ecological Integrity Group on which this book is based, I opened my talk with the following:

Let us bring our minds together as one to greet and thank our Mother the Earth. This morning when we awoke we could see and appreciate that the earth continues to perform her duties as given by the Creator. The waters flowed. The plants soaked up the light. The trees breathed. The critters did what critters do. The birds sang. The breezes rustled. The sun warmed. The moon tugged at the sea. The stars guided. And Creation at this place was fully alive as we came together as the Global Ecological Integrity Group to notice and give greetings and thanks, love and respect to our Mother the Earth.

The idea and tone of this opening derive from the Thanksgiving Address of the traditional Haudenosaunee, People of the Longhouse, otherwise known as the Iroquois Confederacy (HETF 1996). Before and following every important occasion, council meeting or ceremony, the people are asked to bring their minds together to acknowledge with greetings and thanks, love and respect the special gifts provided by each of the elements of Creation. The ceremonial oration is known in the Mohawk language as, Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen (The Words That Come Before All Else). It is not a prescribed speech that is always the same. It is shorter or longer, more florid or direct, depending on the occasion. But the elements always remain the same. It is meant to remind everyone that there is a web of life made up of beings that are intrinsically and perpetually dependent on each other. Life is fragile. In the Haudenosaunee Creation story the continuance of life is the result of a game of chance and the odds were heavily against it. Each day that the world goes on is a day for gratitude for each element of Creation, each fellow being who continues to carry out its particular way of life, its intrinsic duties and powers that are considered by the Haudenosaunee to be Original Instructions from the Creator. Among the obligations that human beings have is to give thanks together which, in turn, encourages life to continue.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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