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Practicing Peace for Climate Justice: Haudenosaunee Knowledge in Global Context Panel Event

Time: Thursday, March 14th, 2019, 4:30pm - 6:30pm
Location: Biotech G10, Cornell University, 215 Tower Road, Ithaca, NY

The goal of this event is to engage the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace as a multifaceted legal and philosophical system well suited to address the political and environmental crises of our times. This will be an interdisciplinary conversation, engaging multiple academic departments and regional communities, geared toward a robust Indigenous-centered theorization of the practice of peace.

Sotsisowah (John Mohawk) wrote in A Basic Call to Consciousness that in Haudenosaunee teachings peace is not defined as the absence of strife but rather as the active striving for universal justice. This panel event recognizes the Haudenosaunee confederacy to be the most venerable continuously functioning democratic governance system on the planet. As a response to climate change, the Great Law of Peace constitutes a provocative alternative to the presiding logics of racial capitalism, accumulation by dispossession, and endless war. The Great Law inspired the formation of liberal democracy, anchors Haudenosaunee peoples as they maintain a land base in the most powerful countries in the world, and can guide the pursuit of justice within an increasingly militarized climate crisis. The Great Law attests that peace means striving for climate justice. This is true from the West Coast where wildfires are the result of Indigenous dispossession as much as global warming, to Indigenous-led struggles against fossil fuel economies from Brazil to unceded Wet'suwet'en lands, from Standing Rock to Louisiana, from the Finger Lakes to the Vatican, and beyond. This event asserts that the Great Law has teachings for all, yet the Great Law must also be about forwarding just futures for Haudenosaunee lands and peoples, such as the Cayuga people, whose land Cornell University occupies. The panel strives to illuminate Haudenosaunee concepts of reason, power, righteousness, and the good mind as practical means for re-orienting peace in response to climate change.

The four distinguished speakers will each briefly present highlights of their work for 20 minutes, followed by a forum discussion including audience questions.

The panel is co-hosted by Cornell University’s Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) and the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP). In particular, this event has benefitted from the mentorship and guidance of AIISP Director, Professor Jolene Rickard.


Kenneth Atsenhaienton Deer, Kahnawake Mohawk Nation (Bear Clan) is an educator, journalist and political activist. He currently is on the Haudenosaunee External Relations Committee, is the Secretary of the Mohawk Nation, and the Chief Administrative Officer of the Indigenous World Association - an NGO with consultative status with the United Nations specializing in the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Deer founded the Eastern Door newspaper and the Survival School of the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation, served as the Chairman/Rapporteur of the UN Workshop on Indigenous Media in New York, and participates in the Working Groups on Indigenous Populations and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He has an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Concordia University (Montreal) and is a recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award.

Agnes F. Williams, LMSC, Seneca (Wolf Clan) of Cattaraugus Territory, is a community organizer, social worker, child welfare trainer, clinical family therapist and perinatal counselor, lecturer, and professor and field supervisor of social work at the University of Buffalo. Her experience over several decades includes being Founding Mother and board member of the Indigenous Women’s Network, a coordinator for Indigenous Women’s Initiatives, and a board member of the Western New York Peace Center. She has traveled to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, the A&H Conventions in Japan, and the World Conference of Indigenous Women in Peru. Agnes published “The Transition of American Indian Women from a Reservation to an Urban Setting and their Changing Roles” in 1978 for the US National Education Institute in Washington DC, served on the editorial board of the magazine Indigenous Woman, and published the article “Two Birthing Stories” in Native Self Sufficiency. She consults as a lecturer and writer with human services agencies.

Kayenesenh Paul Williams, Esq., Onondaga Nation at Six Nations Territory, is a member of the Haudenosaunee External Relations Committee, the Standing Committee on Burials and Burial Regulation, the Documentation Committee, and the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority. He has been a member of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, the Kawen:niio School Board, and the Six Nations Tourism Board. As research director for the Union of Ontario Indians, and then as legal counselor and negotiator for many Anishinaabe communities, he has been involved in most of the major land claims or claim settlements on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. With his knowledge of Canadian, Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Wabanaki legal systems, Paul Williams’ experience, knowledge, and resources are unique. He has sought to pass on this knowledge through teaching in several universities, and more recently with his book, Kayanerenk√≥:wa: The Great Law of Peace (2018), the first of its kind. His next book will explore how that law was the legal ecosystem for the first two hundred years of treaties in this part of the world.

Iakoiane Wakerahkats:teh Louise McDonald, Mohawk from Akwesasne, is a Condoled Bear Clan Matron of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs. One of her most influential societal contributions is her work to revive the Oher√≥:kon Rites of Passage ceremony, which helps youth make their transition into adulthood. She said renewing the ancient ritual was intended to combat social ills, such as drug abuse and suicide, and reconnect youth with their identity as Indigenous people. Louise also secured grant funding to expand the rites of passage to other Haudenosaunee communities across Ontario, and as a result, the program earned the 2015 Harvard Kennedy School’s prestigious “Honoring Nations” award for exemplary tribal governance. She is also a founding member of the Konon:kwe Council, a grassroots organization that develops and advances policies to end domestic violence. Through this work, she has mentored and empowered young women to use their voice and stand in their rightful place of honor within their communities.Contact Peace and Conflict Studies for questions: