WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) — A tribal leader represented Akwesasne this week in Washington D.C.
Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Beverly “Kiohawiton” Cook attended the White House Tribal Nations Summit on Tuesday, November 16, 2021. This summit was the first convening of tribal leaders since 2016.
At the summit, Chief Cook participated in an administration listening session with senior government officials. In this session, leaders addressed tribal priorities and concerns, which included underfunded tribal healthcare and historical.
Chief Cook made spoke to these issues at the summit on behalf of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. She also discussed environmental contamination that has occurred in Akwesasne.
“Our issues are not dissimilar from our relatives across Indian Country,” Chief Cook stated. “Our reservation is directly adjacent to a superfund site as a result of the actions of [the] General Motors Power Train Factory that closed down, filed bankruptcy, left the area, and also left land saturated with PCBs that leech into the Saint Lawrence River.”
According to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, Chief Cook has led environmental justice movements in Akwesasne. Her efforts have included advocacy for the complete removal of all contaminated materials and arguing that the “EPA’s remediation of the superfund site is not satisfactory.”
Additionally at the summit, Chief Cook spoke before U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Bureau of Indian Affairs Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland, Office of Management and Budget General Counsel Sam Bagenstos, and White House Special Assistant to President Libby Washburn. She further addressed health issues linked to environmental contamination.
“Cases of cancer, respiratory and metabolic diseases, such as hypothyroid, diabetes and disruption of reproductive cycles of our women are commonplace these days,” Cook stated. “It’s extremely concerning when we have a grossly underfunded Indian Health Service to rely on.”
“The wrongs must be made right in an act of reparation and further relationship building. The funds the tribes spend trying to convince Congress to fulfill their treaty obligations takes away from the very ones we advocate for,” she said in her final remarks.
A video from the summit that includes remarks made by Chief Beverly Cook can be viewed in the player below: