SALAMANCA The Seneca Nation hosted the 16th annual Indian Nation Leaders Meeting with federal officials from the Environmental Protection Agency on the Allegany territory. This was the first time the three-day meetings, which focused on tribal environmental issues, were held on tribal lands.
Leaders and representatives from eight Native nations across New York State came together to discuss the environmental items of greatest concern in their respective communities. Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter welcomed the delegation of Native leaders and EPA officials and stressed the need for stronger consultation, partnership, and protective action by the United States to protect Native lands and waters as required under the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794.
President Porter said he was very gratified to have the Seneca Nation host the important environmental meetings and to have federal officials visit Native lands.
"It is only through first-hand knowledge, direct consultation, and the eye-witness accounts that come from visiting our territories that federal agencies such as the EPA can become best informed about our resource issues and environmental concerns," said President Porter. "Having Native nations host these meetings is a good step in the right direction in helping to bring about greater understanding of our on-the-ground needs and ensuring stronger federal protections for our Native lands and resources."
Administrators from the U.S. EPA, Region 2 held tribal consultations with eight Nations including the Seneca Nation, the Onondaga Nation, Tuscarora Nation, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the Oneida, Cayuga and Tonawanda Seneca Nation, and for the first time, the Shinnecock Nation also took part in the meetings.
Judith Enck, regional administrator with the EPA, Region 2 briefed the group on federal updates and the tribal efforts and initiatives across New York State. Enck expressed the desire to integrate the concerns of the Nations as early in the process as possible. "Building strong partnerships with the Native nations is one of our priorities," said Enck. "Whether it relates to air quality or water standards, consultation is key to how we honor a strong commitment to defending Native interests."
The Native nations across New York State expressed environmental concerns on a range of issues from brownfields, to the cleanup of Onondaga Lake, underground storage tanks, drinking water and watershed protections, and solid waste issues. Climate change and Native views on hydrofracking and the prospective impacts on Native peoples and communities were also discussed as important concerns.