Natives banging at the UN door

by Doug George-Kanentiio©
News From Indian Country

The Native people were banging at the doors of the United Nations in New York City, demanding to be heard in Manhattan from May 14-21, 2007.

While the earth begins its great ecological change the Indigenous peoples, as custodians and monitors, are attempting to deliver both a message and a warning. As predicted years ago, the current lifestyles of humanity are leading us all to a condition called eco-suicide, a situation in which the earth reacts to our excesses by beginning to cleanse herself of our species.

For the past four generations, ever since the Cayuga statesman Levi General-Deskaheh approached the League of Nations in Geneva 80 years ago, our leaders have tried to have our concerns addressed by the world's nations only to suffer repeated rejections orchestrated by the United States, Canada and the other colonial powers.

As Floyd Westerman sings in his ballad “They Didn’t Listen,” the consequences have proven to be catastrophic. If theLeague of Nations, and its successor the United Nations, had given serious thought to what our people had to say, we could have prevented the climatic changes which are now causing massive suffering. From Iraq to New Orleans real people are dealing with the fury of the earth as she turns her attention to us. It will only get worse.

So now, in 2007, the House of Mica in the capital city of the world, was once again being approached by Indigenous leaders from around the planet. A forum has been established within the UN building where the voices of the earth based nations may be heard. It is more than drums, flutes and rattles but words delivered with great urgency.

For one week Indigenous people were here in an event called “Forum on Indigenous Issues” which included sessions on economic development, land tenure, natural resource preservation, health, education and human rights. During the sessions the Indigenous delegates told those who have the courage to listen that immediate action must be taken to alter our direction or bear the consequences. Prophecies were exchanged, testimony given, policies proposed.

Voices will speak in harmony from Asia to the Arctic. Together they are saying: We as custodians must be protected, for as we are so is the earth.

As a Mohawk I find this event not only historic and essential but contradictory as well. We have our Haudenosaunee people here in force with one of our citizens, Tonya Gonella of the Onondaga Nation, taking on the enormous task of serving as the key representative for Indigenous peoples at the UN. But as she stands for us before the world espousing the wonderful message of peace and ecology we have other Iroquois acting at odds with the Confederacy.

They are the ones who have but a single focus: exploit the work of those who have preserved our status as free peoples for immediate material gain and damn the consequences.

Where we should be restoring waters and planting trees the greedy ones among us plot to build golf courses, suck up shrinking resources and pave over precious land for casinos. They are hacking at the Great Tree of Peace and are intent on bringing down humanity’s oldest, purest, democratic government.

And yet those who possess a sense of duty to their children up until the seventh generation were here, in New York, at the House of Mica, carrying to the world’s nations the good word stemming from the good mind.

Over the course of one week Indigenous speakers told their stories. They represented the natural world. They encouraged, enlightened, cautioned and warned. They sang, danced and chanted.

In the end, the United States will use its veto powers to deny them full membership within the family of nations. But the struggle will endure for if we are to survive we can only do so by making all nations Indigena in thought and deed.

So there will be a second declaration by the United Nations making the next decade one in which greater attention is paid to the planet’s Native peoples. We can only hope it will be more effective than the last and that we can clean up our own backyards as evidence of our commitment to a great and universal healing.