Human beings have been present in New York since the end of the last ice age, approximately 12,000 years ago when people followed retreating glaciers to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the newly opened landscapes. These people were the original occupants in New York. Like us, they had goals, desires, traditions and beliefs, which helped them work together to form communities.
They interacted with one another, and ultimately with Dutch, British, French, and American settlers. Evidence of their cultural practices and ways of living is present in the archaeology of the state, the historical record, and in the oral tradition of the nations. Indigenous people (Native Americans) are still here, and many are citizens of the following nine state recognized nations:
- Cayuga Nation
- Oneida Indian Nation
- Onondaga Nation
- Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe
- Seneca Nation of Indians
- Allegany Reservation
- Cattaraugus Reservation
- Shinnecock Indian Nation
- Tonawanda Seneca Nation
- Tuscarora Nation
- Unkechaug Indian Nation
However, other Indian Nations were located within New York State in the past and maintain ties to the area. These federally recognized nations include:
- Cayuga Seneca Nation (Oklahoma)
- Delaware Nation (Oklahoma)
- Delaware Tribe of Indians (Oklahoma)
- Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation of Wisconsin
Our Relationships with the Nations
The DEC recognizes that the state of New York has a unique relationship with each of these nations, particularly with the nine state recognized nations, who share many of our concerns. How and when we interact with these nations is discussed in Commissioner Policy 42. CP-42 describes how we interact with the nations on three broad issues:
- Natural resources, particularly concerning actions which may affect lands on which a nation resides, water or air quality of nation lands, and other natural resources of nation interest (e.g., wetlands, fisheries, wildlife, etc.).
- Cultural resources, particularly burials and archaeological sites. DEC reviews permit applications for projects that include land disturbance and the potential to impact these and other sites of cultural importance.
- Subsistence resources, specifically hunting, fishing and gathering.
CP-42 says that "Department staff shall consult with appropriate Indian Nation representatives on a government-to-government basis regarding matters affecting Indian Nation interests." When interacting with these nations, their leaders, and their citizens, we must be mindful that cultural practices and preferences may differ greatly between the parties. Additionally, many nations simply do not have the staff or resources that DEC does. As such, we should reach out to the nations as early as possible to ensure that they have the necessary time to consider their response and get back to us. Consultation, simply put, is meaningful involvement in the decision-making process, and meaningful involvement may require more time to which we, as DEC staff, are accustomed.
The Office of Indian Nation Affairs (OINA) recognizes that knowing when and how to consult with the nations may be difficult. OINA staff, particularly the Indian Nations Affairs Coordinator, welcomes any questions or comments regarding consultation.