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Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF)

Abstract The Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF) works to address environmental degradation in Haudenosaunee communities by developing culturally-appropriate environmental education, restoration, and protection strategies. (Haudenosaunee means People of the Longhouse and is composed of six Iroquoian nations: The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora.) The work of HETF is rooted in the Haudenosaunee traditional way of life, including beliefs in the cyclical and interrelated nature of reality as expressed in the foundational narratives. These narratives include: the Haudenosaunee Creation Story, Great Law of Peace, and Thanksgiving Address. In 1992, a delegation of Haudenosaunee delivered an address at the United Nations (UN) Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to bring attention not only to the environmental degradation impacting the Haudenosaunee, but to the seriousness of global pollution and its impacts on those yet to be born, the future generations. Shortly afterward, the Haudenosaunee created the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, which is composed of delegates from each of the Haudenosaunee Nations. HETF strives to identify and address ecological problems faced by individual Haudenosaunee communities as well as other indigenous Nations. Through publications, projects, partnerships, and presentations, HETF works to implement its environmental restoration plan, called the Haudenosaunee Environmental Restoration Strategy (HERS). HETF publications include two books about the indigenous environmental protection strategies of the Haudenosaunee: Haudenosaunee Environmental Restoration: An Indigenous Strategy for Human Sustainability (1995) and Words That Come Before All Else: Environmental Philosophies of the Haudenosaunee (1999). HETF received the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Quality Award in 2000 as well as an EPA grant to help the Cayuga, Tuscarora, and Tonawanda Seneca Nations compose environmental strategies of their own. Current projects include the Whole Health Initiative, which aims to improve Haudenosaunee mental, spiritual, physical, and social well-being, and an effort to create a culturally-based environmental protection process using traditional Haudenosaunee teachings. Incorporating traditional knowledge and rooted in the Haudenosaunee worldview, such a culturally-based environmental protection process would be motivated by respect for life and the need to live in peace and harmony with the natural world.
Religion Indigenous Tradition
(People of the Longhouse)
Geographic Location United States of America
(New York)
Duration of Project 1992–Present

After presenting the Haudenosaunee philosophy at the United Nations Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992, the Grand Council created the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force to address environmental problems faced by Haudenosaunee communities. In 1993–1994, HETF delegates crafted the Haudenosaunee Environmental Restoration Strategy, which they presented to the United Nations at the Summit of the Elders in 1995 and to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since 1995, HETF has focused on building an organizational infrastructure and implementing the Restoration plan. In 2000, the EPA presented HETF with an Environmental Quality Award for its outstanding work. In 2002, HETF developed and hosted five workshops that were held at the Onondaga Nation. Onondaga is located at the center of Haudenosaunee territory physically and spiritually, which made holding the conferences there ideal. The workshops were designed to gather people of the Good Mind together to work toward a common understanding of the principles that could be used to create a culturally based environmental protection model. In 2002, HETF met with representatives from thirty seven federal agencies during a meeting titled “Polishing the Silver Covenant Chain.” The purpose of the meeting was to remind the participants of historic commitments to work together, in a partnership of mutual respect, to protect the environment and each nation’s sovereignty.

Mission Statement The mission of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF) is to help Haudenosaunee Nations in their efforts to conserve, preserve, protect, and restore their environmental, natural, and cultural resources; to promote the health and survival of the sacred web of life for future generations; to support other Indigenous Nations working on environmental issues; and to fulfill our responsibilities to the natural world as our Creator instructed without jeopardizing peace, sovereignty, or treaty obligations. However, as Indigenous Nations, we realize that all things are interconnected and do not wish to limit our activities to those listed above.
Partner Organizations Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment
Indigenous Environmental Protection Network
Tribal Science Council
Long-Term Goals None Listed
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force
Dave Arquette, Interim Director
Via Mohawk Nation
P.O. Box 366
Rooseveltown, N.Y. 13683
Ph:       518.358.3381
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)