Recognize Native American Sovereignty of Niagara Falls

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This petition calls on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Parks Department to allow for the indigenous governance of Niagara Falls State Park by empowering the Haudenosaune Confederacy Council, who have served as the indigenous stewards of this natural monument for millennia, with its caretaking.

For thousands of years, Niagara Falls has been among the most sacred religious sites for the indigenous people of North America -- a destination of pilgrimage like the Holy See is to the Catholicism, Mecca is to Islam, and the Temple Mount is to Judaism.  The site is most sacred to the Haudensaune, a population of more than 150,000 people who reside on both sides of the American and Canadian border, better known as the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, both on and off of more than a dozen sovereign territories in New York, Ontario, Quebec, and Wisconsin.

The Haudenosaune Confederacy is the oldest still-existent constitutional democracy in the world – once the mightiest empire in North America – founded in 1142 with the codification of the Great Law of Peace at Onondaga Lake, the federation’s historic capital. 

Benjamin Franklin drafted the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution largely on the political principles of the Great Law: the separation of powers; multi-cameral legislative bodies designed to achieve consensus; the leadership of Speaker chosen among many representatives from political subunits of the electorate; the concept of impeachment from office; among many other foundational principles of the modern constitutional process.  Even the concept of federalism, with sovereign states functioning independently, and able to come together in Grand Council, is attributable to the Great Law.

Today the Confederacy Council still meets to conduct business on the first Saturday of each month – now in its 876th year of congress. This body is a far more fit and proper steward of Niagara Falls than the State of New York – which has adulterated the natural beauty of the place over the last several decades, with the construction of swooping roadways along the upper river’s edge, vast asphalt parking lots atop Goat Island, and carnival-like attractions that desecrate the sacredness of the space.

Many Haudenosaune still believe that Niagara Falls is the main artery of North America, and Goat Island -- aching to be acknowledged as Turtle Island -- at its heart, putting it at the center of the religion’s creation story – the biblical equivalent of the Garden of Eden. 

Allowing these Six Nations to steward Niagara Falls and protect it into the future would be an act of social and economic justice that protects a vulnerable culture on the brink, allowing a long-hidden history to be shared in the hosting of guests to this most sacred place. It would also represent an economic justice of two sorts.  The Maid of the Mist is a popular and lucrative boat tour inside the park is a misappropriation of Haudenosaune culture – the name referencing specific mythology and lore associated with the cataract.

On a very practical level, this would allow several Haudenosaunne communities access to employment and business opportunities – from conducting tours, to operating ferry boats, to conducting ceremonies and educating visitors about a history that is seldom told in schools.

Governor Andrew Cuomo can transfer control of the State Park this session.

 



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