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Commentary: Onondaga Nation seeks to revive river

"Brad Powless looks across the rushing stream that runs by his house on the Onondaga Nation Territory just south of Syracuse, New York. His five-year-old daughter Sophie stands nearby, giggling and tossing stones as the creek gurgles its way toward Onondaga Lake.

It was along streams like these that Powless' people helped form the Haudenosaunee, a peaceful, democratic alliance of six Native-American tribes that covered much of what is now New York State and served as a model for the U.S. Constitution. It was also along these streams that the white man's armies marched to conquer the Onondaga settlements that lined the water's banks. It was also in streams like these that the gradual destruction of the Onondagas' homeland took place.

Powless says that, decades ago, the industrial projects of Allied Chemical polluted the stream's headwaters near the town of Tully, creating mudboils that clouded the water and killed trout the tribe depended on for food. Today, this little stream runs into Onondaga Creek and then into Onondaga Lake, a body of water considered sacred by the Onondagas but now viewed as one of the most polluted waters in the world.

Powless, one of the current tribe's 14 chiefs, said it's for the health of these waters, and for the future of Onondaga children like Sophie, that the nation in March filed a federal lawsuit laying claim to about 4,000 square miles of land the Onondagas say was illegally seized from them by the state of New York more than 200 years ago."

Get the Story:
Commentary by Ryan Whirty: Law of the Land (E/The Environmental Magazine 3/2)

Relevant Links:
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