The Ice is Melting in the North:
Statement to the UN Peace Summit

by Oren R. Lyons

Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation, and Audrey Shenandoah, Onondaga Nation clanmother, represented Indigenous Peoples of North America at the UN Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, August 28-31, 2000. The following is taken from Oren Lyons’ statement made to that gathering. Prepared for the PNL by NOON (Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation).*

Leaders of the World:

Neyuwenha-skanoh [Thank you for being healthy]. I bring you greetings from the Indigenous peoples of the north and the great Turtle Island, now called North America. I bring you the most urgent message brought to our annual gathering of traditional elders and youth by a runner from the north, from Greenland: The ice is melting in the north. He informed us that some 15 years ago they noticed trickles of water coming down the sheer face of Glacier Mountain. That trickle has grown to a roaring river of ice water pouring out of this mountain into the Atlantic Ocean. He informed us that Glacier Mountain has lost 4,000 feet of ice in these past few years. And the melt continues to accelerate. This is an alarming message that requires your absolute attention.

Leaders of the World:
We are a collective voice of indigenous peoples. We have joined this great mission for peace. We add our presence in support of this great effort for reconciliation between peoples and nations. We agree that there must be parity and equity between rich nations and poor nations; between white people and people of color and rich people and poor people with special attention to women, children and indigenous peoples. We, in our collective voices, add to this that there must be a reconciliation between people and the natural world, between nation states and the forests that sustain us; between corporations and the resources that they mine, the fish that they catch and the water that they use.

Leaders of the World:
Indigenous nations and peoples believe in the spiritual powers of the universe. We believe in the ultimate power and authority of a limitless energy beyond our comprehension. We believe in the order of the universe. We believe in the laws of creation and that all life is bound by these same natural laws. We call this essence the spirit of life. This is what gives the world the energy to create, procreate and becomes the ponderous and powerful law of regeneration, the law of the seed. We in our collective voices speak of this to remind you that spirit and spiritual laws transcend generations. We know because this has sustained us. Religions and spirituality are vital to survival and moral law. It is faith that has sustained our human spirit through our darkest hours. It has sustained our human spirit in crisis, during the times we suffered through the grinding measures of inexorable persecution that have spanned generations and continue today. Yet here we are today, adding our voices to this plea for sanity in leadership and responsibility to the future generations whose faces are looking up from the Earth, each awaiting their time of life here.

Leaders of the World:
Peace is dynamic and requires great effort of spirit and mind to attain unity. Leaders of peace must step forward and take responsibility for a paradigm change away from current lifestyles and materialistic societies. The human species has become the most voracious and abusive consumer of Earth’s resources. We have tipped the balance of life against our children and we imperil our future as a species.

Leaders of the World:
Despite all of our declarations and all of our proclamations, no matter how profound they may be, the ice is melting in the north. We see the acceleration of the winds. We see the fires that are raging in North America. And, we see that the sun’s rays that provide us with light, energy and the very essence of life now are causing cancer in people, blinding animals and killing the plankton and krill of the sea. This is only the beginning and already we are helpless. We will now see the real spiritual powers that govern the earth.

Leaders of the World:
There can be no peace as we wage war upon OUR MOTHER, THE EARTH. Responsible and courageous actions must be taken to realign ourselves with the great laws of nature. We must meet this crisis now, while we still have time. We offer these words as common peoples in support of peace, equity, justice and reconciliation. As we speak, the ice continues to melt in the north.

Dahnato [now I am finished]. Neyawenha [thank you].

*This material, as well as Audrey Shenandoah’s statement were originally included in Neighbor to Neighbor, Nation to Nation, published by NOON in November, 2001 (available from SPC).

Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) is a program of the Syracuse Peace Council focusing on recognition and support for the sovereignty of the traditional government of the Onondaga Nation. Among our goals is promoting understanding of and respect for the Onondaga people and culture within the broader Central New York community.