Hundreds of years ago Native Americans gathered on the shores of Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, New York, and made a commitment to the environment. "In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation," stated the Great Law of Peace, a constitution that created the Iroquois Confederacy.
However, having grown up not far from the lake on the outskirts of the Onondaga Nation reservation, I'm familiar with the sad irony of its current state. Today, as a result of nearby factories dumping industrial waste in its waters, Onondaga Lake is one of the most polluted lakes in the world.
Naturally, when I heard that Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, was going to speak at the National Museum of the American Indian's recent "Call to Consciousness on Climate Change" symposium, I wanted to hear his plea.
Chief Lyons didn't claim to know how to solve climate change, but his sage warning, delivered with a quiet confidence, was more motivational than any in-your-face rally for change. And, weeks later, I'm still chewing on some of his words.