August 2014


Mother Earth is a Relative, Not a Resource

Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Esq. (Onondaga Nation), American Indian Law Alliance, NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC

Mr. President, H.E. John William Ashe, and H.E. Sacha Llorentty Soliz, Permanent Representative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations.

Your excellencies, distinguished presenters, friends and relatives, in particular the International Indian Treaty Council, an Indigenous organization in General Consultative Status with ECOSOC.

I bring you greetings on behalf of the Haudenosaunee, Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, North America, of which I am a citizen.

I am grateful to present at this 4th Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Harmony with Nature under the main theme “The promotion of a balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development through Harmony with Nature,” as mandated by UNGA resolution 68/216.

In 2009, the General Assembly proclaimed April 22 as International Mother Earth Day. In so doing, member states acknowledged that the Earth and its ecosystems are our common home, and expressed their conviction that it is necessary to promote Harmony with Nature in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of the present and future generations. The same year, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/64/196). The resolution expressed “its concern over the documented environmental degradation and the negative impact on nature resulting from human activity.”

Mother Earth is a Relative, Not a Resource

The 4th Interactive Dialogue is timed as the international community prepares to define a post-2015 development agenda. For Indigenous Peoples, this agenda must focus on sustaining the natural world rather than reducing it to a resource to feed the global economic system. The post-2015 agenda must include the full, effective and equal participation of Indigenous Peoples in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (A/RES/61/295), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007.

Recognizing the 4th Interactive Dialogue to advance discussions on economic approaches, in the context of sustainable development and to further a more ethical basis for the relationship between humanity and the natural world is a positive step. Harmony with Nature, for Indigenous Peoples, has been our worldview and the basis of our existence. We have always served as stewards of Mother Earth and we share with humanity these beliefs, which serve as the basis of our life ways. We submit that humanity and the natural world are best served by the full and equal participation of Indigenous Peoples, Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities and recognizing their inherent right to self-determination and the principle of free, prior and informed consent in the United Nations development agenda post-2015.

The UN system must ensure equity based on Gender, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, in the representation and organizing of all matters concerning them, including Indigenous Peoples at the local, national, regional, and international level. The Harmony with Nature discussion requires full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in all UN fora, as required under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This includes our inherent and inalienable right of self-determination, which is preeminent and a requirement for the realization of all rights.

We recommend that states move towards full implementation of the UNDRIP and other international human rights instruments including, but not limited to, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As acknowledged in “The Future We Want,” the Outcome Document for Rio+20, “Mother Nature” embodies a universal set of principles; this fact has always been recognized by Indigenous Peoples. The natural law cannot be changed to suit humanity. The original instructions are clear: when water, air and lands are all contaminated, humanity as we know it will be gone. Global industry and states must show good faith in restoring the lands and waters of Indigenous Peoples, for all our children and for the seventh generation yet to arrive. Mother Earth is a relative, not a resource.

For Indigenous Peoples the cultural and spiritual dimension and relationship to the land is equally important. Our spirituality is distinct from western concepts of religion and our spirituality is our way of life – our distinct and profound relationship with the natural world and our lands, territories, sky and resources are of utmost value to us. Our relationships and responsibilities to our Mother Earth as Indigenous Peoples and members of the human family cannot be understood apart from the fundamental relationship Indigenous Peoples have with the land. This relationship with Mother Earth is inscribed in our own laws, traditions and customs as well as Article 26 of the UNDRIP. We take seriously our responsibility to restore the health and integrity of the planet’s ecosystems. Indigenous Peoples collectively and individually recognize the sacredness of Mother Earth, the Cosmos, all living things and elements that have sustained us. We call on the UN and member states to be mindful of the impact of space intervention and its impact on Indigenous Peoples’ spiritual relationship with the universe.

The report of the Secretary-General A/67/317 on “Harmony with Nature” paragraph 60 points to the sound scientific facts regarding the need to consider long-term impacts of human activities on Mother Earth. The economic approach to achieve Harmony with Nature must contain an ethical foundation, or the harm to humanity and the natural world will continue at its compounded pace. We must always consider the impact of our actions and decisions on the seventh generation yet to arrive. Mother Earth is a relative, not a resource.

Current Economic Models are not Sustainable

Recognizing that current economic models have failed to address some of the most pressing global issues, including global poverty; and recognizing that the current economic models have not leveled the playing field for Indigenous Peoples and other communities at risk, it is clear current economic models are not sustainable and should not be continually repeated and relied upon by all sectors of society. We note that environmental economists attempt to assign market values to the natural world in direct contrast to the worldviews of Indigenous Peoples.

Our Responsibility to Mother Earth

In our respective communities, Indigenous Peoples are unilaterally pursuing the removal of immense toxic waste from our lands, territories and waters that have been left by the extractive industry. Indigenous Peoples are determined to prevent the further contamination of our territories and waters. We draw upon the “Follow-up report on Indigenous Peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, with a focus on extractive industries” (A/HRC/21/55). In many cases, industry and government regulators have refused to take responsibility for their contamination of Indigenous lands, territories and waters and must be held accountable for their actions. We further recommend that international industries, corporations and business enterprises, operating or seeking to operate in Indigenous territories, endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and operate in accordance with its principles.

The responsibility and accountability of all global leaders in their daily deliberations and decision-making must include the effect on the seventh generation coming, for all humanity. This is a major key to achieving Harmony with Nature and sustainability. Mother Earth is a relative, not a resource.

Thank you.

Presented at the Opening Ceremony, Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Esq., (Onondaga Nation, Snipe Clan), President and Founder of the American Indian Law Alliance, North American Regional Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2008-2010), Board Member for the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team


    Don’t act out sacred dances and ceremonies or play games like “cowboys and Indians.” Being a cowboy is a chosen vocation. Being Indian is being born with a particular racial identity. Many Native Americans today are also cowboys. Don’t role-play a racial group. Do role-play specific historic and contemporary situations in order to analyze problems, solutions and reactions. Indigenous religious rites should be treated as respectfully as the religious rites of other groups. Sacred stories should be referred to as such and not as myths.

Kay Olan, Mohawk/Wolf Clan


On August 5th the Onondaga County Legislator extended the deadline for public comment by 25 days, from Aug. 11 to Sept. 5. Legislators also scheduled a second public hearing, for 6 p.m. Aug. 26 in the Legislative Chambers (Room 407 Court House). The materials on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Lakeview Amphitheater can be accessed at:

The Legislature also unanimously agreed to hold public hearings any time the county plans to borrow money for the amphitheater or any part of the broader $100 million Onondaga Lake Revitalization Project.

You can still:

  • Send you comments regarding the project to

Please be sure to also send copies of your email to:

  •  “Like” and share the Facebook page of Citizens for a Better Plan, a coalition of local civic and environmental groups calling for an extended comment period and additional public hearings:

  • Learn more by visiting the following links:

  • Read the Onondaga Nation’s Vision for a Clean Onondaga Lake, which calls for the complete removal of industrial wastes:

  • Share what you’ve learned with family, friends, and neighbors.

Important Dates:

Sept. 5 - Deadline for public comment

Aug. 26 - Public hearing, 6 p.m. in the Legislative Chambers (Room 407 Court House)


August 23rd, 10am – 3pm, Saturday,
Quest for the Knotties at Ganondagan State Historic Site. Children of all ages will be fascinated by this imaginative new family experience. The tiny knotties live at Ganondagan, but are seldom noticed because their bodies so closely resemble sticks. Based on the book by Doot Bokelman, Knotties of Ganondagan, this magical event will be sure to stay in your child's memory (and yours!) for years to come. Author/sculptor Bokelman will be on-hand to sign her book. Learn about the Knotties, embark on a quest to find them hidden on Ganondagan's trails and build your own Knottie house (from provided starter kit). Cost - $50 per family

Where's the Iroquois White Corn?

August 11, Monday, Penfield Wegmans (2157 Penfield Rd) from 10 am-2 pm
August 30, Saturday, Ithaca Wegmans (500 S. Meadow St.) from 3-7 pm. Also be at the Overacker Schoolhouse at Seneca Heritage Day (Route 364) in Middlesex, NY at 2 pm.
September 13, Saturday, Public Market, Rochester, NY at 6 am
About the White Corn Project


Dennis Banks, 77, a co-founder of the American Indian Movement, has announced a 18,000 mile motorcycle run across America declare war on diabetes.” Apparently, 
dates are now changed to leaving from Alcatraz August 23 and arrive in Washington DC September. 26, covering 18,000 miles, riding to all reservations gathering data
 on affects and impact of diabetes on Indian Lands.


August 12 - 7-8:30 pm, NOON Steering Committee Meeting, Syracuse Peace Council, 2013 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, open meeting. Since new people often have a lot of questions, we recommend talking with Carol Baum, Syracuse Peace Council Staff (315-472-5478315-472-5478 , or Sue Eiholzer, NOON Volunteer (315-492-2684315-492-2684 , before the meeting.


August - Doctrine of Discovery Study Group – Canceled. We will resume meeting again in September.


August 20 - 6 pm, Shaleshock CNY, Community Room, Onondaga Free Library. Anyone interested in learning more about local anti-hydrofracking efforts in CNY or to connect to these efforts is encouraged to attend.


More information will be provided later on these events.


September 27-28, Wooden Stick Festival at Onondaga Lake, Skä·noñh—Great Law of Peace Center and the Carrier Dome. The Haudenosaunee Wooden Stick Lacrosse Game and Festival will feature two lacrosse scrimmages between Syracuse University, Onondaga Community College, and the Iroquois Nationals. Tickets for the scrimmages are $10.


September 27, 10 am - 4 pm, Living History Event: A Seneca Encounter with LaSalle, at Ganondagan State Historic Site


September 28, 2-5 pm, Iroquois White Corn Cooking Class, at New York Wine and Culinary Center


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