When the Haudenosaunee and the first colonist to arrive made the original agreement on our treaty relationship, it was about sharing the natural resources on this great land. That seventeen-century agreement is the foundation of our Haudenosaunee Land Use Strategy of today. By agreement, we established a way to share, respect each other, and resolve disputes peacefully.
Those principles still apply today, however, when those first agreements were made, the waters were clean and healthy. All fish could be eaten. The birds, plants, and animals were plentiful. Now we face an environmental holocaust that threatens human existence. This is not acceptable. Our land, water and biological systems have been polluted by unchecked growth. Endangered ecological communities and species are declining as a result of current land clearing, and also as a consequence of the fragmentation and degradation resulting from past clearings. Our goal is to restore sanity to the use of the land, realizing that what we do today determines the well-being of the future generations. It is with them in mind that we establish this plan for Haudenosaunee Land Use Agreements.
In Haudenosaunee tradition, the Earth is our mother. It is said that we should treat the Earth with kindness and respect, because our walking upon her is like walking upon the face of our own mother. It is also said that we should walk gently upon the Earth, for we are treading on the faces of our own unborn generations.
Haudenosaunee law seeks balance in everything. Every authority is balanced by responsibility. This sense of balance extends to the use of land: the authority to use land or resources includes the responsibility to protect them.
Haudenosaunee law acknowledges the land and livings things, not as a resource or assets intended for the use and enjoyment of humans, but as vital parts of a larger circle of life, each entitles to respect and protection. In Haudenosaunee thought, it is not possible to separate ‘land’ from the rest of the circle of life – the waters, grasses, medicine plants, food plants, berries and trees, the insects, animals, birds and people; the winds and other unseen forces that benefit the world. Our relationship with all these is one of gratitude and humility. We acknowledge that each part of the natural world seeks to fulfill its responsibility, as we humans do.