Presentation to the United Nations July 18, 1995
by Carol Jacobs, Cayuga Bear Clan Mother
Mr. Ambassador, Chief Shenandoah, Distinguished Guests, Chiefs, Clanmothers, panel: It is my duty to help bring to and end the Haudenosaunee presentation. Chief Harvey Longboat of the Cayuga Bear Clan will be doing the actual closing.
You have heard how we began our meeting today, bringing our minds together in thanks for every part of the natural world. You have heard how we are grateful that each part of the world continues to fulfill the responsibilities that have been set for it by our Creator. It is how we begin every meeting, and how we end every meeting, and how we will end this day.
Most of our ceremonies are about giving thanks, at the right time and in the right way. They are what was given to us, what makes us who we are. They enable me to speak to you about life itself.
We draw no line between what is political and what is spiritual. Our leaders are also our spiritual leaders. Maintaining our ceremonies is an important part of the work of the chiefs and clan mothers. This is right: there is nothing more important than preserving life, recording life, and that is what the ceremonies do.
We are told that when this land was being created, our Creator was challenged to a bet by his brother. The subject of their game was: would there be life? And in one throw, supported by all the living forces of the natural world, our Creator won this bet. He won it all for us. He won it for all of us. We commemorate this each year in part of our Midwinter ceremonies.
This is not just a quaint legend. It is a reminder that, as scientists now agree, life on earth is the result of chance, as well as of intent. Life on earth is a fragile matter. That magnificent gamble could have gone the other way: life could just as easily not have been at all.
That is a reason for constantly giving thanks. We know very well how close life still is to not being. The reminders are all around us.
Among us, it is women who are responsible for fostering life. In our traditions, it is women who carry the seeds, both of our own future generations and of the plant life. It is women who plant and tend the gardens, and women who bear and raise the children. It is my right and duty, as a woman and a mother and a grandmother, to speak to you about these things, to bring our minds together on them.
In our ceremonies and dances, we move counter-clockwise. That is, in this part of the world, earth-wise. In our dances, the women's feet never leave the ground, never leave Mother Earth. This is intentional: we constantly remind ourselves of our connection to the earth, for it is from the earth that life comes.
Our prophecies tell us that life on earth is in danger of coming to an end. Our instructions tell us that we are to maintain our ceremonies, however few of us there are, and to maintain the spirit of those ceremonies, and the care of the natural world.
In making any law, our chiefs must always consider three things: the effect of their decision on peace; the effect on the natural world; and the effect on seven generations in the future. We believe that all lawmakers should be required to think this way, that all constitutions should contain these rules.
We call the future generations "the coming faces". We are told that we can see the faces of our children to come in the rain that is falling, and that we must tread lightly on the earth, for we are walking on the faces of our children yet to come. That attitude, too, we want to have you learn and share.
To us, it does not matter whether it can be scientifically proved that life as we know it is in danger. If the possibility exists, we must live every day as if it were true -- for we cannot afford, any of us, to ignore that possibility. We must learn to live with that shadow, and always to strive toward the light.
We are not a numerous people today. We believe that people who are close to the earth do not allow their numbers to become greater than the land can bear.
We are not an industrialized people today. We do not carry economic power. Our people and lands are like a scattering of islands within a sea of our neighbours, the richest nations in the world.
And yet I tell you that we are a powerful people. We are the carriers of knowledge and ideas that the world needs today. We know how to live with this land: we have done so for thousands of years and have not suffered many of the changes of the Industrial Revolution, though we are being buffeted by the waves of its collapse.
Our families are beyond the small, isolated nuclear families that are so convenient to big industry and big government and so damaging to communities.
Our clans and names give people identity, not facelessness.
Our governments still follow natural law.
Our governments also face challenges---physical, political, legal and moral. We recognize that those challenges come from within our communities as well as from the peoples around us.
We know that we, as communities and as a people, are facing an environmental crisis. We know that we do not have the resources to be able to resolve that crisis by ourselves. That is why we are here, seeking partners.
But we also know that all the world faces the same crisis; that every people and every living thing shares the same challenges. And we are here to offer our partnership, our knowledge and our ideas.
It is time to move beyond "calls to action" and well-meaning agendas. The forces that are injuring our Mother the Earth are not waiting to create subcommittees, to set dates for meetings, to set budgets.
Today we have met, we have taken one another's hands, and we have begun to make commitments. As we leave, the words of thanksgiving will echo in our ears, reminding us that not only our own future generations, but every living thing, relies on us to fulfill our responsibilities as they fulfill theirs.
We need no greater challenge than that.
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