Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

The Haudenosaunee Meet the Nature Conservancy


By: Ohahonkóhton

On August 27, 2018, the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs welcomed visitors from the Nature Conservancy into our territory on behalf of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Nature Conservancy is an environmental organization with representatives and offices all over Turtle Island and overseas. Sixteen representatives from their organization attended the gathering in Ahkwesáhsne.

The meeting began on Monday, August 27 with the Edge of the Woods Ceremony, where we bring our visitors into a safe place while they are here in our territory. We wipe them down, clearing the dust and dirt off their bodies from their long journey. Then we wipe the tears from their eyes with the softest part of the deer hide so they are able to see clearly. Next, we take the softest feathers from the eagle and wipe the dust from their ears, so they can hear our words clearly. Then we gave them a drink of the purest water to clear their throats, so we will be able to hear the words clearly whenever they speak.

The next three days were spent learning from each other to see if we can create a path forward that will benefit the future generations. The Haudenosaunee were not the only ones invited to teach them about the spirituality of the natural world. Hopi, Tewa Pueblo, and Mayan elders were also invited to represent the four directions. Speakers from across the Confederacy were invited to educate them about who we are and how we are supposed to look out for the natural world and the future generations.

On the first and second days, we shared much of our history, including many of the travesties that occurred when their ancestors tried to get rid of us. So many different speakers eloquently explained that the reason we still exist is because we never gave up our traditional government and ceremonies. We never gave up being Haudenosaunee. We need to heal ourselves instead of depending on the outside governments to do this for us. Everything we need is in our own traditions, which means that we need to stay in our canoe and not their ship. Spirituality is a way of life. It is how we communicate with nature. We are still here because they couldn't break our spirit. We need the traditional people to survive if we want nature to survive.

On the last day, Wednesday, August 29, it was the Nature Conservancy's turn to educate us on their organization and who they are as individuals. They were also given the opportunity to reflect on what they heard the last couple of days. The Nature Conservancy started 50 years ago as a group of wealthy folks that just wanted to protect the beauty of their own backyard. Later, it branched out to include protecting the environment for all species on earth. In the last couple of years, they have begun to try to incorporate human beings as a part of their conservation policy. What they learned from our gathering is that humans are a part of nature and cannot be separated from it.

A traditional Hopi elder gave a prayer feather to each of the leaders present from the Haudenosaunee Nations to keep our longhouses united and to rekindle the fire that was lit between his ancestors - the Hopi traditional people - and the Haudenosaunee.

The people that were present at the meeting agreed that none of us want to be the generation that let disaster come to the earth. Many spoke about the impending, catastrophic effects of climate change and none of us want this to happen. We need to work together if we want to protect the natural world for the future generations. We left it up to the Nature Conservancy to decide if we will meet again. Gifts were exchanged as a token of our friendship, then came the traditional handshaking and the closing of the fire.

To learn more about the Nature Conservancy,


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