Perspectives on place

This week’s focus was on the headwaters of the Susquehanna. Over two and a half days the BotS Mobile made its way from Lewisburg to Wapwallopen, Pa., then on to Cortland, N.Y., Onondaga, N.Y., and finally Cooperstown, N.Y.

View of the Northern Branch and Berwick Nuclear Plant

On the drive to New York, we took a break in Wapwallopen and hiked into a small forest where there is a very pretty scenic overlook that shows a vast look at the Susquehanna River valley, complete with the Berwick nuclear plant across the river. You can see where the nuclear plant’s water intake is and it makes me wonder how the river is affected by the loss of so much water and how the landscape has changed. As far as the eye can see from the overlook, there are forested lands, smaller plots for farming and small towns. The nuclear plant stands out because of the billowing towers of steam and cemented land.

Thursday, we were taken to the center of the Onondaga Nation where we met with Sid Hill, the Chief of the Iroquois Confederacy, Tadoho, (Haudenosaunee) by Sid Jamieson, a former Bucknell lacrosse coach who is part of the Iroquois Nation. Sid Hill talked with us about the struggles of the Iroquois ranging from environmental impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling to travel. The Iroquois have their own passports but the United Nations doesn’t recognize the passport and the United States recognizes the individual tribes within the confederacy but not the Iroquois Nation. I think it is great to see the activism of the Iroquois in attempting to recreate the human element and keep their culture alive.

Sid Hill began his talk with the traditional prayer and continued to talk about how everything the Onondagas do is done with honor and thanks. It’s amazing to see how our two cultures differ, the Onondagas always leave the first medicinal plant they see to give thanks for its presence and to ensure they won’t destroy the abundance of the plant. Our culture wouldn’t consider the reproduction of the plant until it was too late. Every action on the Iroquois part considers the effect on the next seven generations and even though they have chiefs and Clan Mothers, no one person has more power than another. They live in a community that always works with each other and has been successful for hundreds of years doing so.

The Onondaga School with windows made to look like the Iroquois Confederacy flag

Thursday afternoon we were taken to see an eighth-grade class in the Onondaga school. These kids seemed to be more mainstreamed into “white” culture than their own. When asked about hunting and the seventh generation they didn’t seem to understand what their teacher was talking about. Native Americans have a holistic view on life and when hunting, if they think about the deer they are about to shoot and wait to make sure it’s the deer’s time. They don’t hunt the biggest deer; they hunt the one that is meant to be hunted. The eighth graders didn’t seem to know this or know that before each deer is killed they are supposed to think of its effect seven generations down the line. It’s sad to see how effected this rich culture has been by the presence of Americans.

View of Lake Otsego.

Thursday evening we had dinner in Cooperstown with members of the Otsego 2000 group and talked about the Cooper family. The Otsego 2000 representative who talked with us seemed a bit extreme in her views, especially of a potential wind farm, which to me would be beneficial in that area because of the wind coming off the ridges. I understand, however, that in that historical area with their pristine view, wind turbines wouldn’t be ideal. I agree with her beliefs on Marcellus Shale, however. There are no studies on the long-term effect of hydrofracking and how it would affect the lakes in the area.

Sunrise over Lake Otsego

Friday morning was brisk, but we still ventured out onto Lake Otsego with members from the SUNY-Oneonta Field Station to learn about the health of this glacial lake. The views were breathtaking and it’s not hard to understand what drew the Cooper family to the area. The lake has a variety of ecosystems – from deep cold-water areas to very shallow areas. The plant and aquatic life is therefore varied. It’s sad to think that the reason the water is clearing up, however, is because of the invasion of zebra mussels, a small bivalve that has been invading the waters of North America and the great lakes and moving south.

SUNY-Oneonta Field Station from Lake Otsego

Evidence of zebra mussels on an old shovel and ice-saw blade.

Friday afternoon was a relaxing way to end the trip. We ventured over to the Greenwoods Conservancy and walked through the different ecosystems within the conservancy (bogs, lakes, forests, streams, etc.) and met with the conservancy’s founder Earle Peterson, who explained their management plan. Along with Matt from the Field Station, the conservancy supports conserving land in its natural state, which in America there is getting to be a smaller and smaller percent of land that is still natural so conserving any amount of land is beneficial.

The mouth of the Susquehanna River, originating in Lake Otsego

Before leaving for Lewisburg, we had to make a quick stop to see the Baseball Hall of Fame with Bucknell’s own Christy Mathewson and the origin of the Susquehanna.

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