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Cornell University Symposium
Lead Organizer
Spring 2019


The goal of this symposium was to engage the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace as a multifaceted legal and philosophical system well suited to address the political and environmental crises of our times. This was an interdisciplinary conversation, engaging multiple academic departments and regional communities, geared toward a robust Indigenous-centered theorization of the practice of peace.


Sotsisowah (John Mohawk) wrote in A Basic Call to Consciousness that, in Haudenosaunee teachings, peace is not defined as the absence of strife but rather as the active striving for universal justice. This panel event recognizes the Haudenosaunee confederacy to be the most venerable continuously functioning democratic governance system on the planet. As a response to climate change, the Great Law of Peace constitutes a provocative alternative to the presiding logics of racial capitalism, accumulation by dispossession, and endless war. The Great Law inspired the formation of liberal democracy, anchors Haudenosaunee peoples as they maintain a land base in the most powerful countries in the world, and can guide the pursuit of justice within an increasingly militarized climate crisis. The Great Law attests that peace means striving for climate justice. This is true from the West Coast where wildfires are the result of Indigenous dispossession as much as global warming, to Indigenous-led struggles against fossil fuel economies from Brazil to unceded Wet'suwet'en lands, from Standing Rock to Louisiana, from the Finger Lakes to the Vatican, and beyond. This event asserts that the Great Law has teachings for all, yet the Great Law must also be about forwarding just futures for Haudenosaunee lands and peoples, such as the Cayuga people, whose land Cornell University occupies. The panel strives to illuminate Haudenosaunee concepts of reason, power, righteousness, and the good mind as practical means for re-orienting peace in response to climate change.



The panel was co-hosted by Cornell University’s Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) and the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP). In particular, this event benefited from the mentorship and guidance of AIISP Director, Professor Jolene Rickard.


Gahaygas Agnes F. Williams, LMSC
Kayenesenh Paul Williams, Esq.
Iakoiane Wakerahkats:teh Louise McDonald

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