AKWESASNE — On Ohiarí:ha/June 20, 2019; the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) announced the appointment of Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Beverly Cook as an inaugural Co-Chair of NCAI’s new Climate Action Task Force. Chief Cook will serve alongside three tribal leaders on the newly established Task Force: President of Kawerak, Inc. Melanie Bahnke, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chairman Brian Cladoosby, and Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis.
“I am honored by the appointment and for the opportunity to work with my fellow co-chairs in advocating for the ongoing protection of our ecosystems and the environment due to the adverse impact of a changing climate,” said Chief Cook. She added. “Indian Country is comprised of place-based people who recognize that climate change is one of the most critical threats we face today to traditional ways of life. I look forward to helping the Task Force enlighten the public toward a better understanding that what we do to the environment we also do onto ourselves.”
Chief Cook was reelected on Ohiarí:ha/June 1, 2019 to serve a third three-year term on the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council. She is a prominent voice and advocate for a trauma-informed approach to restoring wellness, health and environmental justice for Native peoples. Her efforts, which was joined by Chiefs Eric Thompson and Michael Conners, in voicing Akwesasne’s environmental concerns contributed to the release of the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s report that looked at the Environmental Protection Agency’s tribal consultation process on Superfund sites that affect Native communities.
NCAI President Jefferson Keel announced the establishment of the Task Force at NCAI’s Executive Council Winter Session in Enníska/February 2019. The working mission of the Task Force is to “document, inform, and support the climate action efforts of tribal nations and Native organizations, and identify and advocate for policies and funding designed to empower their ability to engage in effective, sustainable climate action.”
“These leaders oversee cutting-edge initiatives that work to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change on Native communities,” said Keel. He noted, “They bring a wealth of knowledge to the Task Force, and will serve as able stewards as the Task Force commences its critical work on this grave challenge to our peoples, places, cultures, and economies.”
The inaugural meeting of the Climate Action Task Force will take place on Ohiarí:ha/June 24, 2019 at NCAI’s Mid-Year Conference in Reno, Nevada. Chief Cook will be in attendance and, in the near future, will be joined by newly elected Sub-Chief Ken Jock, who retired in Enniskó:wa/March 2019 as the Tribe’s Environment Division Director after 32 years of work dedicated to protecting and restoring Akwesasne’s environment.
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The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.