Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 24, 2004 - Issue 105


pictograph divider


United Nations Drafts Akwé:kon Guidelines
UN Gives Document Mohawk Name

by Kenneth Deer - The Eastern Door
credits: photo: Charlie Patton, along with the Thunderhawk Dancers, open the UN meeting on December 8, 2003, by inviting delegates to clear their eyes, ears and throats and open their minds for the negotiations. The meeting drafted a document that offers some protection to sacred sites of Indigenous Peoples and give it the title the Akwé:kon Guidelines.

Charlie Patton, along with the Thunderhawk Dancers, open the UN meeting on December 8, 2003, by inviting delegates to clear their eyes, ears and throats and open their minds for the negotiations. The meeting drafted a document that offers some protection to sacred sites of Indigenous Peoples and give it the title the Akwé:kon Guidelines.During the latest meeting on the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity here in Montreal, the participants recommended that the guidelines for cultural, environmental and social impact assessment be called the Akwé:kon Guidelines.

The meeting, which took place in December, finalized a draft recommendation on guidelines that would help protect Indigenous communities from development that would take place on, or which are likely to impact, sacred sites and lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by Indigenous and local communities.

Normally, the United Nations names such documents after the city where they are drafted, such as the Kyoto Accord, Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources, or the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 1989. The participants, many of whom were Indigenous representatives from around the world and government delegates, wanted to give an Indigenous title to the guidelines since they mainly impact Indigenous Peoples.

Names were proposed, such as the Kahnawake Guidelines or the Kanienkeh Guidelines, but concern was expressed that consultation with the communities involved had not taken place and it would not be proper to appropriate these names without permission. So other words were considered. Since the Mohawk language can be difficult for the different peoples of the world to pronounce, a simple name was sought.

Since the objective of the Convention on Biodiversity was to protect the environment, the suggestion was to use the word for 'all of creation.' However, that would have been a very long phrase in Mohawk. So an alternative was to use the word 'akwé:kon' which means 'everything.' Although akwé:kon would need another word after it in proper Mohawk, using the English word guidelines to follow akwé:kon would suffice. So the name Akwé:kon Guidelines was proposed and accepted. It is understood that the phrase means guidelines of everything in Creation.

"Everybody loves the name," said Paola Deda, Program Officer with the Secretariat for the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). "It is new and refreshing. Not a single government objected to the term and I can't foresee anyone trying to change it at COP 7."

The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 7) will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this February 9-20. It will focus on the issues of Biodiversity in mountain ecosystems, the role of protected areas in the preservation of biological diversity and the transfer of technology and technology cooperation. The draft Akwé:kon Guidelines will be presented at this meeting for ratification.

The Akwé:kon Guidelines

The guidelines are a comprehensive set of rules for governments and 'other parties,' meaning corporations, to conduct impact studies on any development that will affect Indigenous communities.

More specifically, the purpose of these Guidelines is to provide a collaborative framework within which Governments, Indigenous and local communities, decision makers and managers of developments can:

(a) Support the full and effective participation and involvement of Indigenous and local communities in screening, scoping and development planning exercises;

(b) Properly take into account the cultural, environmental and social concerns and interests of Indigenous and local communities, especially of women who often bear a disproportionately large share of negative development impacts;

(c) Take into account the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of Indigenous and local communities as part of environmental, social and cultural impact-assessment processes, with due regard to the ownership of and the need for the protection and safeguarding of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices;

(d) Promote the use of appropriate technologies;

(e) Identify and implement appropriate measures to prevent or mitigate any negative impacts of proposed developments;

(f) Take into consideration the interrelationships among cultural, environmental and social elements.

The guidelines go onto a lengthy list of definitions, procedural considerations, types of impact assessments, studies and other considerations.

It is important to point out that these guidelines are voluntary only, and are not binding to anyone.

"We would like these guidelines to be binding. However, they are still an important step in protecting Indigenous communities from unscrupulous development," said Earl Stevenson of the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. "It has been a long, hard fight to get these kinds of protections. Our purpose for participating is to make sure our concerns are taken into consideration. This is a baseline or starting point for discussions with governments, businesses and anyone who wants to start projects on Indigenous lands.

"It will help Indigenous Peoples in developing countries like in South America. It is a basis for changing legislation in many countries, including Canada."

These guidelines would encourage governments and developers to consult Indigenous Peoples before embarking on large projects such as mining, logging, Hydro-Electric dams, etc., which would affect Indigenous communities. For instance, if Canada followed these guidelines, perhaps the Oka Crisis would not have occurred.

"The Mohawk People should be proud that a Mohawk word is used to name these guidelines," said Mattias Åhrén, a Sami and a member of the Swedish government delegation. "The guidelines are worthy of such an honour."

The full draft of the Akwé:kon Guidelines, 28 pages, is available on our website soon at

Montreal, Quebec, Canada Map

Maps by Travel

pictograph divider

Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!