Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Check out the brochure we made about how The Peacemaker united the Haudenosaunee Confederacy on Onondaga Lake! This story is very important to the Haudenosaunee people, and paints a picture of how important the lake is in their history. With proper care, the lake can be restored to its former glory.
Click on the images to make them larger:

We have also posted the brochure on our tumblr

Works Cited:

"De-Ka-Nah-Wi-Da and Hiawatha." Indigineous People. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.indigenouspeople.net/hiawatha.htm>.
"Dekanawida and the Great Peace." The Great Peacemakers. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.thegreatpeacemakers.com/dekanawida.html>.
"Native American Legends: The Peacemaker and the Tree of Peace." First People (The Legends). Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/>
"The Peacemaker." Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.haudenosauneeconfederacy.com/peacemaker.html>.
Onondaga Nation's Vision for a Clean Onondaga Lake." Onondaga Nation. 8 Mar. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Full Interview with Neil Patterson

On April 9th, we visited Neil Patterson, Assistant Director in the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, and asked him some questions about his personal history, and his connection to Onondaga Lake.

  1. Where did you grow up? (0:05)
  2. What was it like growing up on the Tuscarora Reservation? (0:48)
  3. What is your role in the ESF Community? (5:09)
  4. What clan were you from? (6:19)
  5. What is your connection to Onondaga Lake? (7:23)
  6. How has the pollution in Onondaga Lake affected your life? (11:01)
  7. Are you involved in any efforts to restore the Lake? (14:41)
  8. What can the average person do to aid in the restoration effort? (16:29)
  9. What is your personal vision for Onondaga Lake? (19:53)
  10. Do you have an opinion on Honeywell's dredging project, now that it is done? (22:41)

Excerpt from Neil Patterson Interview (2)

Neil Patterson is the Assistant Director in the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. In this video segment, he talks about Honeywell's dredging project. An interesting metaphor for the amount of work it takes to clean an entire lake is discussed.


Kelly: Do you have an opinion on Honeywell's dredging project, now that it is done?

Neil Patterson: My opinion is larger biased toward what the Onondagas think and how they're reacting to it, because I haven't read through and don't understand enough of the chemistry and the limnology involved, but what I do understand is that any time you pollute someplace--and this is like a general thing--is that I think it takes 10% of your effort to clean up 90% of the contamination, but it's gonna take the other 90% of your effort to clean up that last 10% because it's so difficult once it happens. Once you spill something, it's like a stain; the stain goes deep and it takes so much work to... I guess now that I think about it, it's like when you're eating and you slop something on your shirt and it's so easy to get most of it off, but the stain that's left...you'll maybe never get it out.
 So I realize the constraints that they [Honeywell] are under, and the near impossibility to clean up the lake 100%. That doesn't make them any less responsible, though, because they should be doing more than the minimum. But, as a for-profit company, their interest is in doing the minimum to reduce cost and to protect the bottom line of their shareholders. And that's a huge company--a massive worldwide, international company. And whether they have the resources to get at that last 10%., they're gonna tell you, "No, we don't. We can't afford, for the next 50 years, to continue dredging and monitoring." So you don't actually know. You just know that they probably do the minimum. We are a people of maximum.
And there's responsibility! If you do it part way, it's really not done if you just clean up something a little bit, right? In the same way with our responsibility, if you just go out and shoot something, and you don't really use it, that's not really fulfilling your responsibility. So, whether Honeywell has a vested interest a hundred years in the Lake... Hmm, no one really knows that. They probably don't, is my guess. That's a very philosophical answer to dredging! I mean, I just know, you can dredge all you want, but you're not gonna get everything, hence the problem. And there are going to be constraints put on you to say leave it in place, don't bother. And there's science behind that, too! Whether you're disrupting contaminants and re-entering them into the food chain, or maybe they'd be completely immobile.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Excerpt from Neil Patterson Interview (1)

Neil Patterson is the Assistant Director in the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. In this video segment, he talks about how the pollution in Onondaga Lake has impacted the language of fishing within the Six Nations--an almost Orwellian phenomenon.

LJ: How has the pollution [at Onondaga Lake] affected your life?

Neil Patterson: Well, I didn't grow up here, and even when I moved here, I was on an SU meal plan at Sadler, so I wasn't so dependent on it like I would have been [had I grown up here]. But I know my brothers at Onondaga--we call them our older brothers--are heavily impacted by it. I mean, in fact, we were just talking about that [earlier on it the interview]. With the language, the language of fish and fishing, has evolved over time to more of an enjoyment, more of a hobby, more of an exception rather than a rule.

Kelly: Because of mercury?

Neil Patterson: Yeah, the mercury, and just in general the loss of species. The species that were there: Atlantic Salmon, Brook Trout, Sturgeon and Eel. And right now, the eels are becoming endangered in the system. Salmon don't exist. Sturgeon are barely there. And Brook Trout are completely gone. So now we have a whole community of Pacific imports: Pacific Salmon, and more of a mix of warm water species. So anyway, I'm always going to steer us back toward fish in these conversations! I mean that's part of the idea. Of course there are obviously less pines growing in these nearly saline environments. It's a unique attribute of the Lake--where we would have gathered water and evaporated it for salt. So salt is a big part of our diet, because we don't have fridges! So we had to cure, and brine, and dry everything with salt, so it's critical for preserving meat. So again, it's this system that connects fish with plants, with people, with sustenance, with food, and energy, even. So when you pollute that, obviously you have drastic changes in the language. You know, the loss of fishing terminology, when people don't know how to make nets anymore out of dogbane, or go throw them in the lake to go catch and harvest fish... So, they're not using that language. They're not even saying "fish net". They're not passing that on to their future generations, so the words actually just die.

Kelly: That's really interesting. It's like 1984.

Neil Patterson: Orwellian, sort of. It's tied in with the environment so deeply...One little thing is like a ripple effect. So, directly me? I would love to go down there and like camp out and fish and hunt for a few days. And that's kind of my personal interest. In restoring those uses to those places, and building a relationship with them.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Updated Survey Findings

Here are our updated Survey Findings:

  • 41% of respondents have not been to Onondaga Lake, and 59% have.
  • The vast majority of respondents (51%) were aware of the pollution at Onondaga, but did not know the extent of it. A whopping 52% of respondents were unaware of the Onondaga Nation’s historical connection to Onondaga Lake.
  • 59% of respondents said that the state of Onondaga Lake was relevant to their life.  36% said that it was “maybe a little” relevant, and 4.5% said that the state of the Lake was not relevant to their lives at all.
  • 86% said that they cared about the state of Onondaga Lake. 9% said they cared “a little” and 4.5% said they did not care at all.
  • It was split 50-50 for whether or not the respondents were aware of any clean up projects in place, and when asked to comment, all respondents aware of the projects wrote something along the lines of “honeywell” or “dredging”.
  • 90% said the Lake could be cleaner, 0% said the Lake was perfectly clean, and 9% had no opinion.
  • In order of decreasing interest, respondents stated that they would like to participate in the following activities at Onondaga Lake: Kayaking, canoeing, and boating; group and community activities; running; swimming; walking the dog; and fishing.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Excerpt from The Nifkin Voice Article

Long ago, on the glittering blue shores of Lake Onondaga, the Peacemaker arrived in a stone canoe. Sent by the Creator, he brought a message of peace and democracy to the five nations that had been warring for decades. Once his message had reached all of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk peoples, the 49 leaders of the nations met again at the lake. A great white pine tree was dug up, and all of their weapons were thrown into the hole. The Tree of Peace was then replanted, and an eagle was placed on top to remind the people to uphold the message of peace.

Unfortunately, the peace of that pristine landscape has been broken. Where the once great Tree of Peace’s roots stretched out into the clay of the lakeshore, now they are choked with pollution and debris. It was said that any person seeking peace and democracy could take refuge under the tree, but the shade is not as bountiful as it once was. What happened to the environment around Onondaga Lake to disturb this peace?

Onondaga Lake is now one of the most, if not the most polluted lake in America. We, with of industrial pollution, tourism, and sewage waste, have tarnished a great symbol of the principles which our country was supposedly founded on--democracy.


We single-handedly destroyed one of the most notable figures of Iroquois spirituality. In Native American culture, spirituality and religion are rooted in place. A connection is instilled between a human being and an aspect of nature, whether that be a specific mountain, plateau, water body, or the like. Indigenous people will not simply leave their homes in order to create a life in a new location, similar to how Europeans left their churches behind to build new churches. The land is the church; therefore, the annihilation of Onondaga Lake is comparable to the burning of a cross in Catholicism, except crosses can be replaced.