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Native American Heritage Month

DEC Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, an opportunity for DEC and all New Yorkers to recognize the contributions that Indigenous peoples made, and continue to make, to protect our shared environment. This includes the ongoing stewardship of land in accordance with traditional teachings and ecological knowledge, despite centuries of dispossession. During this month, and year-round, DEC is working to improve our relationship with Indigenous peoples while also recognizing past challenges.

Bird's Beak Basket by Sheila 'Kanieson' Ransom
(Mohawk), on loan from the New York State Museum.
Named for the thin woven splints of black ash that
resemble beaks of birds. Made of black ash.

DEC's Office of Indian Nations Affairs is leading the agency's efforts to enhance and deepen proactive engagement with State and federally recognized Indian Nations by improving consultation, building shared knowledge, and advancing meaningful cooperation.

Over the past few years, our Indigenous neighbors have protected the Allegany River from pollution (leaves DEC website), installed solar panels to generate clean energy at Onondaga (leaves DEC website), and removed a dam blocking fish migration up the Saint Regis River (leaves DEC website).

As part of the Onondaga Lake Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, and as Natural Resource Trustees for a cleanup settlement with Honeywell International, Inc., DEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a resolution that directed Honeywell to transfer the title to more than 1,000 acres of open space in the Tully Valley of Central New York to the Onondaga Nation in June 2022. This was one of the largest returns of land by any state to an Indigenous nation and was executed, in part, in recognition of the Onondaga having been the original stewards of these lands and waters, and out of their continuing legacy of natural and cultural resource conservation and protection.

Many Indigenous people are at the vanguard of protecting the environment. For example, this year the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe renewed their commitment to manage black ash trees in Brasher State Forest-a 19,782-acre reforestation area-by renewing their Volunteer Stewardship Agreement with DEC. The forest contains suitable conditions for black ash growth that affords the Mohawk people with high-quality timber for cultural uses like basket making, a highly appreciated Indigenous art form.

Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment crews from
the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Land Resources program
conducted improvement cuttings to protect black ash
at Brasher State Forest.

Out of respect for our Indigenous neighbors, DEC renamed a number of agency-managed resources. These include Skenoh Island in Canandaigua Lake, Ganowtachgerage Road in Hammond Hill State Forest, and Onãaktokok Fishing Access Site in Rensselaer County.

DEC continues to amplify our consultation efforts with interested Indigenous Nations during the development of recreation and unit management plans that help guide DEC's management of properties held in trust for all New Yorkers. Our goal is to make these lands more welcoming to all people, including Indigenous peoples, and to explore how we can better integrate our environmental stewardship with opportunities to sustain and support Indigenous cultures.

As we recognize Native American Heritage Month, DEC recommends that you explore and celebrate the heritage, traditions, culture, art, and history of the Indigenous peoples of New York State today and in the past and consider how society's actions may impact Indigenous peoples and cultures. DEC also encourages you to learn more about how we can strengthen our relationship with nature and each other. 

collection of beaded items with place names and dates
These Tuscarora beadwork whimsies were hand sewn and made
of felt and glass beads. The Seneca and Mohawk people are known
for their beadwork today, but Tuscarora artists are famous for the
"raised" patterns, made of multiple layers of beads upon felt
backgrounds, and for a variety of shapes including hearts,
horseshoes, picture frames, shoes, and wall pockets. The whimsies
are often labeled with the place and date of sale. These were created
by a variety of artists. "Niagara Falls Hat" and assorted Tuscarora
beadwork whimsies, on loan from Grant Jonathan (Tuscarora).

Learn more about Native American Heritage Month (leaves DEC website).

Recommended Reading List:

Abate, Randall S. and Kronk Warner, Elizabeth Ann. 2013. Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies. United Kingdom: Edgar Elgar Publishing Barnes.  

Black, C.F. 2010. The Land is the Source of the Law: A Dialogic Encounter with Indigenous Jurisprudence. Oxfordshire: Routledge.  

Bradley, James W. 2005. Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois: Accommodating Change, 1500-1655. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Cohen, Felix S. 2005. Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law. Newark, NJ: LexisNexis.

Cronon, William. 1983. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New York City: Hill and Wang.  

Deloria, Vine. 1999. Spirit & Reason. Golden, Colo.: Fulcrum Publishing.  

Estes, Nick. 2019. Our History is the Future. London, New York: Verso 

Geniusz, W. 1989. Our Knowledge is Not Primitive. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.  

Getches, David H. 2005. Cases and Materials on Federal Indian Law. Eagan, Minn.: Thomson/ West. 

Gilio-Whitaker, Dina. 2019. As Long as Grass Grows. Boston: Beacon Press.  

Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force. 2007. Words That Come Before All Else. Hogansburg, N.Y.: Native North American Travelling College. 

Hauptman, Laurence M. 2001. Conspiracy of Interests: Iroquois Dispossession and the Rise of New York State. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.  

Hauptman, Laurence M. 1988. Formulating American Indian Policy in New York State, 1970-1986. Albany: State University of New York Press.  

Hauptman, Laurence M. 2013. In the Shadow of Kinzua: the Seneca Nation of Indians Since World War II. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. 

Hernandez, Jessica. 2022. Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. 

Herrick, James W. 1995. Iroquois Medical Botany. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. 

Hoagland, Serra J. and Steven Albert, eds. 2023. Wildlife Stewardship on Tribal Lands: Our Place is in Our Soul. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.  

Hoover, Elizabeth. 2007. The River Is in Us: Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.  

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2013. Braiding Sweetgrass. Minneapolis, Minn.: Milkweed Editions.  

LaDuke, Winona. 2015. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Chicago: Haymarket Books. 

Menzies, Charles R., ed. 2006. Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.  

Mihesuah, Devon, and Hoover, Elizabeth, eds. 2019. Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press.  

Moerman, Daniel E. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland: Timber Press.  

Nelson, Melissa K. 2008. Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future. Rochester, Vt. Bear & Company.

Nelson, Melissa K., and Dan Shilling. 2018. Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Learning from Indigenous Practices for Environmental Sustainability. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.

Otis, Melissa. 2018. Rural Indigenousness: A History of Iroquoian and Algonquian Peoples of the Adirondacks. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.  

Porter, Tom. 2006. Kanatsiohareke: Traditional Mohawk Indians Return to Their Ancestral Homeland. Wooster, Ohio: Bowman Books. 

Rice, Brian. 2016. The Rotinonshonni: A Traditional Iroquoian History through the Eyes of Teharonhia:wako and Sawiskera. Syracuse, N. Y.: Syracuse University Press.  

Rodgers, William H. 2005. Environmental Law in Indian Country. St. Paul: Thomson/West.  

Sleeper-Smith, Susan. 2018. Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest. Williamsburg: University of North Carolina Press.  

Sleeper-Smith, Susan, ed. 2009. Rethinking the Fur Trade: Cultures of Exchange in an Atlantic World. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 2022. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Bloomsbury Academic Publishing. 

Spence, Mark David. 1999. Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Tatum, Melissa L. and Shaw, Jill Kappus. 2014. Law, Culture, & Environment. Durham: Carolina Academic Press. 

Todrys, Katherine Wiltenburg. 2021. Black Snake: Standing Rock, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Environmental Justice. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.  

Younging, Gregory. 2018. Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing by and About Indigenous Peoples. Wooster, Ohio: Brush Education.  

Wildcat, Daniel R. 2009. Red Alert! Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge. Golden, Colo., Fulcrum. 

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