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Conservation: A Haudenosaunee View

Keller George (Wolf Clan), member of the Nation’s Council, recalled the following story his great-grandmother told:

Long ago, before the Europeans first came to this land, the Haudenosaunee were happy and at peace with all the gifts the Creator had bestowed upon them.

The lands where they dwelled had many thick forests. Numerous animals populated their lands, many of them fur-bearing. Birds of innumerable types inhabited the countryside. The rivers were flowing with myriad fish.

The Haudenosaunee had lived in America since time immemorial and had taken care of the gifts the Creator had granted to them, using only what they needed to survive.

One day, this all changed. From across the waters sailed a large winged canoe. On board this vessel were the Europeans, the newcomers, who eventually settled in Haudenosaunee country.

The newcomers saw only plenty when they looked at the great forests the Creator had made. So with their axes, they cut down too many trees.

The animals, which ran free and were killed only out of necessity by the Haudenosaunee, were nearly exterminated by the newcomers.

From the streams, the newcomers took too many fish. The once ample supply of birds were diminished by the newcomers and their guns. The land too was damaged, as the newcomers plowed too many acres.

Seeing all of this waste made the Haudenosaunee sad. The Creator too was upset with the actions of the newcomers. The Creator knew the results of the waste and greed would become apparent and haunt the newcomer. The Creator had made Mother Earth in perfect balance, which the exploitations of the newcomers had upset.

And so it followed that the insect population increased because there were fewer birds to eat them. The insects in turn ate the crops.

There were no trees left to stop the soil from eroding when the rains came. Flooding occurred when the rushing waters washed away towns and farms of the newcomers. The waters ran swiftly carrying the soil out to the sea.

The earth that remained was no longer heavy sod. When the winds came, they wreaked havoc on the soil and created dust storms. Dust and sand covered the newcomers’ homes.

Now the newcomers knew they had been wasteful of the Creator’s bounty, and understood they must teach their children to be wiser.

To this end, the newcomers taught their children to plant trees to replace those previously chopped down. The new trees would eventually hold back the water that wore away the soil.

Into the rivers, the newcomers put fish to replenish that dwindling population. The fish in turn would eat the mosquitoes and other insects that worked against people. To help the fish in this endeavor, the newcomers made birdhouses to attract more winged creatures. The birds too would eat the harmful insects.

The newcomers knew that taking these conservation measures would please the Creator.

The newcomers said: “The Creator will make this country thrive again and shine with beauty as it did before my ancestors came here and nearly destroyed it.”

“Indian people have always lived in balance with nature,” said Keller. “They know the Creator’s gifts must be tended and preserved for the next generation.”

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