How could the Haudenosaunee relationship to the natural world inform non-Native American ways of environmental conservation? In February 2024, Dave Kanietakeron Fadden of the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center and Adirondack Land Trust Conservation Manager Chris Jage explored this topic through the lens of Ohén:ton Kariwatékwen, also referred to as the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address.

In 2022, the Adirondack Land Trust purchased 333 acres in Onchiota and transferred the land to the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center. Together, the nonprofit organizations are applying the Haudenosaunee perspective to a conservation easement that will care for more than 300 acres of forests while also providing a site for the cultural center’s planned expansion and opening new pathways for collaborative conservation. Watch the recording above and read an extended Q&A with Dave and Chris.

How can I learn more about the Haudenosaunee’s cultural principles and perspective on conservation before I visit the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center?

Dave: One book that comes to mind is Basic Call to Consciousness, available at nativevoices.com. There is also a suggested reading list on our website at 6nicc.com/resources.

What is something you wish every non-Indigenous environmentalist or conservationist knew?

Dave: Perhaps that most Indigenous people had and still have a close relationship with the land and have a lot to offer in terms of practice and knowledge of the land.

Could you tell us more about the new Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center and how it will be different from the existing location?

Dave: The new center will be a state of the art, climate-controlled space with the original building inside the center or heart of the new building. New exhibits will detail a chronological narrative of the Haudenosaunee with my grandfather’s work in the old building remaining basically the same. The new site is approximately a half-mile to the west of the current location.

How will the land around the new center be stewarded?

Dave: Our intention is to have a minimal human footprint and impact on the land. We intend to leave the bulk of the land untouched but will have trails that do no harm to the land. We will approach wildlife in the same manner as my grandfather did—leave them alone.

How will you know if this idea is working?

Chris: One way we’ll know if this is working is by listening to what the lands and waters tell us. Are the streams clear, or full of silt? Is plant life thriving?

Will the Adirondack Land Trust and the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center share the conservation easement document when it is complete?

Chris: Yes. Once the conservation easement is complete, the Adirondack Land Trust would be happy to share upon request. Conservation easements are part of a property’s deed, and deeds are on public record at the County Clerk’s office where the property is located. This conservation easement will be recorded in the Franklin County Clerk’s office and available there as well.

Where can I find the National Geographic article you mention in the presentation?

Dave: You can find the article “North America’s Native nationals reassert their sovereignty: ‘We are here’” by Charles C. Mann, with photos by Kiliii Yüyan, at nationalgeographic.com.

When will the new Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center be completed?

Dave: No date is set yet. We submitted Adirondack Park Agency permit applications and await their approval. Fundraising will begin this year and it’s my guess that it will take a few years to raise the amount needed for the main center. A smaller work and administration building is slated to begin this year.

Will the museum be open during the construction project?

Dave: Unknown at this time. When the main center is built, we will remove all artifacts from the current building and house them in the new work building until the old building is moved into the new center. Then, the artifacts will be moved back. So, there may be a period of time when the center will be closed.

Do you have a library in the cultural center?

Dave: Our family has a library that will be housed in the new work building when it is complete. Currently the library is in my mom’s house.

Will the new center be open year-round?

Dave: Yes. We may decide to close during the coldest months and work on cleaning and perhaps new exhibits.

Is there any work being done on how Indigenous peoples would approach solving the global warming and climate change problem?

Dave: There are too many to list here but locally at Akwesasne, there are folks and organizations who are striving to be less reliant on foods that are trucked in from other faraway places. The practice of traditional planting techniques and harvesting is making a comeback. A local farmer’s market is now open. Also, passive construction methods and green energy technology are being implemented in the community. Local schools are participating with organizations like the Wild Center in Tupper Lake and their Youth Climate Summits.

Many people are not aware of conservation issues. As an educator, how do you bridge that gap?

Dave: Simply put, I will talk to just about anyone who will listen. Our reach is relatively small, but we do what we can in terms of education and outreach in the media. Our work with the Adirondack Land Trust and other organizations has allowed our work in conservation and education to reach a broader audience and it is our hope that this will continue in coming years and decades.

How do you see the relationship between teaching, storytelling, and conservation?

Dave: Everyone loves a good story and if you have an underlying message to share, it is told within the story. From an early age we all hear stories about all kinds of things. Among the Haudenosaunee, stories serve as a way to teach our youth how to live our lives on earth with respect for each other and the land that sustains us. Science tells us all we need to know about how the earth works, but some folks have a difficult time learning from science alone. If science and philosophies are taught through storytelling, then perhaps more people will understand the importance of conservation and many other topics.

There seem to be parallels in how land trusts own land and the Indigenous perspective on our relationship to the land: That we are here to care for the earth and live in reciprocity with nature, not exploit it. I’m curious what you see as the difference between a land trust “owning” land, and Indigenous peoples having what has been referred to as “territory”?

Dave: This is why our partnership works. We both share the same philosophy about the Earth but have different ways of expressing this belief. “Owning” land is a foreign concept for most Native peoples. The Haudenosaunee were a very communal society with a collective approach to working to maintain our existence. We all benefit from the gifts the land provides and therefore we look at the land as something that needs to be respected and cared for. An area of land can sustain a certain number of people and all these gifts are shared. Agreements with other peoples allowed for shared use of the land when needed. People in a certain area harvest foods from that area while another group harvests from another. So, these territories are defined.

Can you tell us more about the Haudenosaunee philosophy regarding agriculture?

Dave: The Haudenosaunee historically were farmers and agriculturists whose main crops are corn, beans, and squash—more than 30 varieties of these food plants—also known as the Three Sisters. Aside from these staples, numerous wild edibles were gathered including fruits, nuts, and leafy stalk plants. Supplementing this diet was, of course, hunting and fishing. The Haudenosaunee would clear land for the gardens and harvest for about a generation, 20 or more years. Then, they would abandon this site, move to another area, build new longhouses, and clear another area for new gardens. The abandoned village would meld back into the earth and replenish. They knew not to overuse the land and the nutrients in the soil.

How can non-Native Americans help to heal historical trauma, especially the U.S. government’s forced removal of Native American children from their communities to boarding schools?

Dave: I would suggest learning as much as possible and sharing with those who are unaware of this part of history with hopes that something like this never happens again. Also, support organizations and schools in your area or beyond who teach the language, culture, and have programs intended to heal those who continue to deal with this trauma.

In Rochester a wampum belt was created to mark the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October. Are you planning a wampum belt for this place, this effort, this relationship?

Dave: We were not planning on making a belt but that is a good idea.

Do you know of other places in the U.S. where there are partnerships happening between land trusts and Native American tribes?

Chris: One great example is happening in Maine. First Light, a collective of non-Native American land-oriented organizations across Wabanaki homelands, has partnered with the Wabanaki Commission on Land and Stewardship on a variety of land return and land access issues.

Is there an equivalent to the Adirondack Land Trust in Canada with respect to engagement with Indigenous perspectives and partnerships?

Chris: I don’t know. The Alliance of Canadian Land Trusts may have more information at their website: aclt-acoc.ca.

For those who may want to include contributions to Adirondack environmental conservation in their wills or trusts, how can they ensure that the principles of the Haudenosaunee are respected in the deployment of their estate gifts?

Please contact the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center at (518) 891-2299 or , or Adirondack Land Trust Associate Director of Philanthropy Kimberly Corwin-Gray at (518) 576-2400 or for more information.

Learn more about the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center at 6nicc.com, where you can also donate to support their mission. The Adirondack Land Trust is grateful to Dak Bar for sponsoring this event.