Word That Come Before All Else

HETF Publication is now available online as an e-book. Varioius members of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) that belong to the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force have contributed to each chapter of this book, which takes their Thanksgiving Address (Words Before All Else) and incorporate it into an understanding of the Haudenosaunee peoples philosophies on environmental concern.

Click here for more details on how to purchase and download your copy today.

In 1992, the Haudenosaunee sent a delegation to the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to spread the words of the Thanksgiving Address, the philosophy of our people.  This delegation reminded the entire world we have a responsibility to act as caretakers of the natural world.

Following the Earth Summit, the Haudenosaunee held a Grand Council to discuss the environmental degradation of our communities.  In accordance with the  Kaianerekowa (Great Law of Peace ) the Grand Council agreed and passed, based on Haudenosaunee protocols and cultural beliefs, to establish the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF).

The Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force is composed of delegates (Haudenosaunee leaders, environmental technicians, and scientists) chosen by each of the Haudenosaunee Nations. These individuals are committed to identifying environmental problems in their communities and working to find solutions to them.

Over the next two years, the HETF worked collectively to put together a document called Haudenosaunee Environmental Restoration: An Indigenous Strategy for Human Sustainability (HERS).  In 1995, the HETF presented the Haudenosaunee Restoration Plan to the United Nations at the Summit of the Elders.  It was among the first comprehensive responses by an Indigenous Group to Agenda 21, Chapter 26.

Since the Summit of the Elders, the HETF has been working to implement the strategies outlined in the Haudenosaunee Restoration Plan. Much of the work for the past three years has focused on setting up an infrastructure for the organization.

In 1999, the HETF published the book Words That Come Before All Else: Environmental Philosophies of the Haudenosaunee. This 160-page book draws from the Thanksgiving Address and Haudenosaunee Creation Story to present a traditional outlook on our relationship with the natural world.

The HETF presently administers a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to assist the Cayuga, Tuscarora, and Tonawanda Seneca Nations as they develop environmental programs.

Winter Day Camp 2014 hosted by Tuscarora Environment Program/HETF

Written by Patricia Fischer. Posted in Tuscarora News

Purpose of Winter Day Camp 2014

The purpose of the Winter Day Camp was to provide education of winter skills normally associated with Haudenosaunee culture and traditions to students in grades 7-12.  To attract more students to attend an HEYC event, the day camp was offered during the students’ winter break for four days at Tuscarora.


A brain storming session was conducted by TEP staff to generate a list of winter activities and potential presenters from the community for a winter day camp.  Based on this list, a five day camp was formulated and after further review was reduced to four days with a balance of indoor and outdoor activities.  Once an estimated budget was set and approved, the Tuscarora Nation Building Community Room was reserved for the four days needed to conduct the day camp. Community members, skilled in the proposed subjects to be taught, were contacted and scheduled to come in to teach students their craft. 



February 18th


February 19th


February 20th


February 21st

9:45 am

Students arrive to the Community Room

Students arrive to the Community Room

Students arrive to the Community Room

Students arrive to the Community Room


Welcome and
Morning activity
Camera distribution

Social Songs
With Louis

Working with
Corn Husks

Making Dogbane


In the Kitchen with
Meat Preservation

In the Kitchen with
Dehydrating Foods

In the Kitchen with
Smoking Fish

In the Kitchen with
Making Cornbread


Lunch on the Fire
& Fire Safety

Lunch with the Migration Project

Lunch with Elders

Lunch with our Community


Being Outdoors:
Fire Making and
Boil Challenge

Being Outdoors:
Bow and Arrow Challenge

Being Outdoors:
Snowshoeing and “Scavenging for Pics”

Being Outdoors:
Tree ID and Sledding


Review of the Day:

Review of the Day:

Review of the Day:

Final Words


return home

return home

return home

return home

Figure 2.  Schedule of activities for Winter Day Camp 2014.

Students were invited to attend the camp through Facebook and flyers.  Sign-ups were taken until the cutoff date or the cutoff number of students was reached.   In this case, the cutoff number of 16 students was reached before the cutoff date.   Upon sign-up, students were sent a schedule and permission slip for the camp. 

TEP staff met to review staff roles and responsibilities during camp and then proceeded to collect and develop materials relevant to their respective responsibilities. 



The overall implementation of the camp went well due to the organization and preparedness of TEP staff beforehand.  The schedule was followed on all days but one, which the morning and afternoon activities were switched and the flexibility of the presenters allowed for the day to continue without complications.  Many of the activities the students engaged in gave them something to take home upon completion and they left looking forward to coming back the next day.  On the last day of the camp students expressed a desire to see similar camps done during their upcoming school breaks.

1.       Goals – The goals of TEP for the Winter Day Camp were to:

a.       Educate students by teaching them relative skills associated with Haudenosaunee culture and traditions carried out during the winter season;

b.      Prepare students with skills which could be used during future HEYC camping, hiking, biking and/or canoeing events.

2.       Participants – Participants included TEP staff, students from the Tuscarora Community in grades 7-10, teachers, community craftspeople and volunteers.

3.       Improvements – Areas of improvement were:

a.       Hire a cook to prepare lunch;

b.      If the kitchen is going to be used for lessons, avoid scheduling use immediately before or after the lunch hour;

c.       Ensure all materials are available and in working condition prior to lesson;

d.      Better facilitator leadership.

Future Plans

With the success of the day camp, additional camps are being considered for August and October.  The focus of each of these camps will be traditional Haudenosaunee activities relative to each month’s season.  Also, to afford social interaction with other Haudenosaunee territories, invite other Nations young people to participate, i.e. Tonawanda Seneca or Seneca Nation of Indians. 

Final Thoughts

The idea of the winter day camp was to plant the seed of sustainability within our community’s young people using a variety of hands on experiences.  Traditional environmental knowledge, once commonly passed between generations as a way of life, is becoming a lost art and is not as widely known as it once was.  Fortunately members of the Tuscarora Environment Program as well as respected members of the community were able to pass on a few skills to this group of young people.  The students, knowing bits and pieces of the concepts, quickly absorbed the whole idea presented to them and made them their own.   By providing programs such as the Winter Day Camp, students will not only hone their new skills and pass them on to the generations to come, but continue to seek and learn more of our traditional environmental knowledge, keeping our Haudenosaunee culture and traditions alive for the next seven generations to come.

Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force Community
P.O. Box 992
Hogansburg, NY 13655
Phone: (518) 358-4286 | Fax: (315) 842-4515