Water Man Spouts

Monday, January 03, 2005

In The Name of The Father

In the Name of the Father

Ten years ago, at a Chenango County Environmental Management Council meeting, we discussed the upcoming 25th anniversary of "Earth Day." EMC members talked about what they considered the ten most important environmental issues facing Chenango County.

I thought back 25 years, to when I was 11 years old. I lived on Mt. Moses, near the intersection of the Unadilla and Susquehanna Rivers, near Sidney, NY. An early pioneer wrote that the Indians burned the timber off Mt. Moses annually, and that it "afforded a fine prospect up and down the valley .... The deer were as numerous as cattle on a thousand hills .... and the rivers were alive, teaming with millions of fish..."

This early settler founded a community he called Unadilla, later re-named Sidney. He lived on a part of Mt. Moses known as "Brant Hill," named after Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Significant events in the Revolutionary War occurred on and near Brant Hill, which marked New York's "western front" in those days.

I remember my elementary school principal telling my class about this chapter in our nation's history, and how that history came alive when this 11 year old boy walked upon Brant Hill. But, in the next 25 years, Brant Hill disappeared, having been mined for gravel.

My brother knew by the moon when turtles would come to lay eggs in a gravel bank near a swamp between Brant Hill and our house. Maybe they had laid their eggs there for hundreds, even thousands of years. One day, we watched 18 turtles come and lay eggs there. But that site is gone now as well. It was bulldozed, and a trailer sits where the turtles used to lay eggs.

There were springs that ran openly on the mountain behind our house. I used to sit near them for hours; I would drink the cool, clear water from these springs, and listen to the water's voice as it gushed out. The old man my father bought our property from showed me where he found 12 flint arrowheads near one spring. But all of those springs had dried up by 1995, likely because of the new developments on the mountain.

The old man had told me about a cave on the mountain, which he found when he was young. He gave me directions to it as old men do: go to the large White Pine, then go left to the third boulder, then go straight up to the ledges by the old logging road. I found the cave, which was hidden from plain view. I found arrowheads and spears and broken clay pottery in it. But the bulldozers that turn old logging roads into the pathways for new development have since destroyed this cave.

The developments and even the logging are not the only things that are killing the trees on Mt. Moses. By nature, a tree dies from the bottom up. But today, more trees are dying from the top down, which means that pollution in the air is killing them.

There were blueberry and strawberry fields on my father's side of the mountain, where every family in the neighborhood could pick for days and days. But they, too, have vanished.

When I was 11, there were several active farms on the mountain and the valley that the Indians called Tianaderha. By 1995, there was only one. Since then, the family who farmed that land for generations retired, and sold the land to a developer from New York City.

The name Tianaderha referred to the method of using nets to fish this section of the Unadilla River. I've found hundreds of the stones the Indians used to weight their nets with along the shore here. I used to fish that section of the river with my friends when I was that 11 year old boy. A few years back, while I was walking in a field looking for artifacts, I saw two boys, around 11 years old, who looked to be fishing where my friends and I had. However, when I got near enough to ask how the fish were biting, I saw that they had BB guns, not fishing poles. They told me that they liked to "shoot turds" that floated down the river.

We also used to fish at a reservoir on the mountain across the river. We would camp for days there, having fried fish for every meal. But the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation had found that the site was a toxic waste dumping grounds for local industries. For decades, industries illegally dumped their toxic wastes in and around this reservoir.

Finally, I told the other EMC members about how many of the people in our neighborhood had died young, from cancer. My childhood best friend's mother had recently died, and so his little baby daughter would never know her grandmother. This was the greatest change in the environment, and holds the greatest threat to the families who live there.

Nine days after this EMC meeting, my father died of cancer. He never told any of us that he was sick; even his own doctor didn't know. It is difficult for me to talk about this, even now, ten years later. But today, I would like to, because there are little children growing up in the neighborhood of my childhood, and they deserve to breathe clean air, and to drink clean water, and to be able to eat the produce from their families' gardens. And they deserve to know their grandparents.

No local government official has ever addressed the issue of the extensive environmental damage that has occurred in our area. One elected official told me that it was important not to scare people, as if the general public was somehow too stupid to recognize the high rates of cancer taking the lives of their family, friends, and neighbors.

Government bureaucrats on the state level, and the industry leaders that they are in bed with, say that there is no such thing as a cancer cluster. They insist that there is no solid proof that the toxic waste dump sites are related to the high rates of cancer in the surrounding populations. This is the lie that they are paid to tell.

Now, this does not mean that every government official at every level lacks the moral capacity to tell the truth. But it does mean that any of them who want to tell the public the truth are likely afraid to, because it might cost them their job. And it does mean that we would be wasting our time if we look to our government for answers.

However, we can put our time and energy to good use by looking towards another source for part of the answer. We can look to the people who had intimate knowledge of this land, and its mountains and fields and rivers, and its caves and springs. We can ask those people who lived here for thousands of years. And we can be confident that they will tell us the truth.

The truth is that at the time that Brant lived on part of Mt. Moses, there was a Seneca prophet who had a vision. The spiritual forces that nourish life on earth showed this holy man, Handsome Lake, that in the future, human beings would pollute the environment. Handsome Lake would teach the lessons of his vision. He taught us that when the pollution caused the water to be oily and heat up, human beings would suffer. When trees began to die from the top down, human beings would likewise become sick and die. And when the strawberries no longer grew, it would be because the soil had been damaged by pollution, and the soil would then damage human beings living upon it.

Handsome Lake told of these things at the same time that the early pioneer wrote about the clear water and beautiful mountains of what is now Sidney. Yet today, we witness the oily water of his vision. We see the trees dying as he told, from the top down. And there are very few strawberries, because the soil is contaminated with industrial poisons.

Handsome Lake told us that people would so damage the environment, that the sun would pose a danger to them. This from a people who called the sun "Uncle," and who recognized its life-sustaining energies as a gift from God. Today, two hundred years later, we have to wear sunscreen in the summer, to try to avoid skin cancer.

So today, I recognize that the destruction of the environment that has caused water to be unfit for human consumption, is responsible for the death of trees and strawberries. The same forces that destroyed Brant's Hill destroyed the turtles' gravel bank. And these same forces have killed about fifty people in the rural neighborhood I grew up in, including my father. And I must accept the fact that this same force will significantly reduce the life expectancy of many of the people who has lived there since that first Earth Day.

Yet I do not despair. For with Handsome Lake's prophecy came promise, that same great promise as held by the Christian church that my father attended. We see that promise in the second Old Testament book, Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn away from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sins, and heal their land."

We need to look to new sources of leadership within our community. We will not find what we need within the present government officials, or agencies, or business leaders. Instead, we must tap other resources. One of the most important is clearly the student population. Those in K through 12, as well as those in college, need to lead the way. They must study the local conditions, conduct the technical studies on both the soil and the realities of the traditional Indian way of life, and to recognize the lies that the present leadership represents.

Equally important, we older people have to get actively involved with the inspired effort that our youth must take, in order to be able to deal with the environmental problems that confront the families living in our neighborhoods and communities. Because, after all, we want young people to have the opportunity to safely fish in the local rivers, rather than "shoot turds" that float by. And we want them to have living grandparents, and to live to be grandparents.


At January 4, 2005 at 10:36 AM, Blogger Me. said...

Good Spouting WM

At January 4, 2005 at 11:29 AM, Blogger Patrick O'Waterman said...

Thank you, Ms. Me. I do believe that you had mentioned Henry David Thoreau in one of our conversations. And I do think about the duty of Civil Disobedience, especially when I sit and look at the Walden Pond at the edge of the woods here. But this pond is polluted by the industrious society, the unconscious machine of good 'ole boy politics/economics. And so maybe I am becoming a member of the Waldenses? I think that they were excommunicated in the late 12th century.

At January 4, 2005 at 6:50 PM, Blogger Me. said...

I have it on good authority that only the best people get excommunicated, so Walden on or the ghost of Thoreau will come after you!

At January 5, 2005 at 2:38 PM, Blogger Indigobusiness said...

Handsome Luke's words brought to mind the warnings of the Kogi. For anyone unfamiliar, I highly recommend spending a moment learning about these remarkably wise people. Their message is clear and alarming.

Nice essay, Waterman. Keep up the good work!

KOGI Lost Tribe of of Pre-Columbian America

The Kogi believe the Sierra Nevada to be the 'Place of Creation' and the 'Heart of the World'.

They call themselves the Elder Brothers of humanity and consider their mission to care for planet. They understand how the planet works as an integrated unit rather than the separation of all things in our worlds.

Much like other ancient tribal civilizations, that still exist on the planet, they believe themselves to be the custodians of the planet Earth here to keep things in balance. They achieve this through meditation wherein they communicate with all living things on the planet - humans, animals, plants, rock, etc.

They live in Aluna, an inner world of thought and potential. From Aluna they astral travel or remote view to places both on and off the physical planet.

Their sacred lands are perceived as a metaphysical symbol of cosmic forces within the whole world - an oracle of the natural balance and health of the planet.

As with other indigenous tribes, Kogi society has changed little in the past five centuries.

They survived as a culture because the Kogi focus all their energy on the life of the mind as opposed to the life of a body or an individual.

Fundamental to that survival is the maintenance of physical separation from their world and the rest of humanity. They are very protective of their sacred space and the dense jungle is not kind to tourists.

They worry about the destruction of the rain forest as well as the planet itself. This area embraces some of the most biologically diverse tropical rainforests on the planet. The Kogi are inseparable from the rainforest habit in which they have lived since the dawn of time.

As with most indigenous tribes a connection to Spirit or entities from other worlds who bring messages, is found.

Through oracle propheices and message with Spirit, they are aware of a great change that is coming now to planet Earth. Their Mountain is dying, symbolizing this transition. Similar to what many other tribes around the world see is a world that was about to be destroyed by the misuse of consciousness. Then they saw the emergence of light consciousness as part of the process of humanity emerging as a race of beings in higher evolved light bodies. This strongly connects with the metaphysical teachings of our times.



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