The SRMT is the first Tribe to remove FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) licensed hydro, and the first hydro decommission/removal in New York State.

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chiefs, Beverly Cook, Eric Thompson and Ron Lafrance at the “old Hogansburg dam site”, filming for an upcoming episode of Onkwarihwashon’a (Our Matters) on the “First Spring without the dam. (photo credit: Brittany Bonaparte)

 

Akwesasne, NY- April 1, 2017, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe held its monthly meeting chaired by Chief Eric Thompson.  Getting right down to business, Tribal Clerk Betty Roundpoint provided a review of action items before moving on to the three scheduled presentations from SRMT Environment Division, Agriculture Program, and the Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Program.

SRMT Environment Division Provides Positive Update on Dam Removal

Program Manager, Tony David gave an applause worthy presentation encapsulating the positive impacts of this removal, to providing a more traditional approach of rethinking how we view the “Hogansburg dam”.  “The removal is just a starting point,” stated David, “We need to rethink how we see it. Why do we still call it Hogansburg, and “the dam”?  Moving forward how do we want to think of this area?  I think those are really important questions to start asking.”

These areas such as Hogansburg, Helena, and Fort Covington, traditionally were given very descriptive names, for example, “Tekahsonh’karo:renhs” (St. Regis Mills/Hogansburg(h)) refers to the saw mills that were in this area way back, and “Ohi’karonthne” (Helena), describing the Salmon that once used to populate the area in abundance.

Since the removal of this dam there has been improved water and habitat quality, proving immediate benefits to the St. Regis River as a result.  Since the federal licensing of this area ended in 2015, the return of this land to the SRMT has seen a number of accomplishments, including the return itself.  The SRMT is the first Tribe to remove FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) licensed hydro, and the first hydro decommission/removal in New York State.  The Environment Division was successful in reconnecting 550 river and stream miles, removed the drowning hazard from the spillway, removal of restricted areas, and most importantly the immediate improvements to fish habitat.  The dam removal project used zero tribal dollars, and finished under budget.

Post-removal activities the Environment Division will focus on include sediment monitoring, bathymetry surveying, fish migration, fish community, ice jam modeling, shoreline monitoring, wetland monitoring, and Atlantic salmon stocking.  On April 3rd, 2017, they will release 16,000 smelts into the water.

There will be a Tribal Fisheries meeting on April 13th, 2017 from 5-6PM at the Environment Division at 449 Frogtown Rd. to discuss further actions to be taken moving forward.

You Get Eggs! And You Get Eggs! Everyone Gets Eggs! — SRMT Agriculture Program Manager Wally Ransom Gifts Tribal Members “Mother Earth Eggs”

Agriculture Program Promotes Healthy Lifestyles and Family Togetherness –

Ransom, provided an update to the community on the continuation of several pilot projects that began in the spring of 2016, which include Mother Earth Eggs and the tilling services provided to Tribal Members, as well as the launch of a new ditching project that will go underway this spring, 2017.  The SRMT Agriculture Program will begin cleaning out two ditches, to start, that will allow once farmable lands to drain properly in order to cultivate for planting gardens.  The Agriculture Program is overseen by the Tribe’s Environment Division.

This need was identified by the Farmers Co-Op Group, which is a group of local farmers that began discussions about wetland problems.  They determined a root problem had been poor drainage of once active farming fields, and have prioritized two ditches that will provide the most benefits to farmland.  The first ditch to be dug will start at the Leo Swamp Farm, to Swamps Farm, Cook Farm, McDonald Farm, all the way to Arquette Farm on Spaghetti Corners.  The second will span from Christine Lane in Frogtown, to Solomon Rd, to Connors Rd.  The Agriculture Program does not have a set start date, but are positive that once these corrections are made to these lands, they will flourish once again.  “We want to engage the community members to do this themselves; to improve the land, start cultivating the soil, and involve the youth,” stated Ransom.  “We are very fortunate to have not one, but two John Deere Tractors, and two brand new roto-tillers going in to the new season.”

The Agriculture program will hold its annual seed giveaway on April 22, 2017, and will be holding sign-ups for the 2017 tilling program.  Also this growing season, SRMT is offering families who have insufficient property, or poor soil, plots to plant gardens.  They will be tilling and marking out spots for those interested.  This land is located along Rt. 95.

The Mother Earth Egg project got underway in March of 2016, and it involves 8 Akwesasronon youth who each care for their own chicken coops, and collect eggs to be sold within the territory of Akwesasne.  The youth are between the ages of 14-17, and each manages a coop of around 100 chickens each.  This project was designed to work with youth and their families, to develop entrepreneurial skills, and to essentially help families work together.  “The whole family gets involved, and that’s really what we’re trying to do,” stated Ransom.  “I’m proud to say we’ve been here a year and we have something to show, so all meeting members will get a dozen eggs to take home.”  All Tribal members in attendance gave a roaring round of applause, which is not often seen at monthly meetings.

Mother Earth Eggs are completely organic eggs, and the SRMT Agriculture Program is working towards becoming USDA approved.  They collect 100% of the eggs, and 100% of the revenues go to the students.  Students are paid from a points based system, in which they are graded on cleanliness, feed/water levels, and general care of their chickens.  Students must earn their share of revenues, and the grading system used helps the students keep up with their coops.  Two-hundred fifty dozen eggs are collected per week, and about 225 dozen are sold.  Once a month, eggs are provided to the green food bags, and when they can, Mother Earth Eggs donates to local fundraisers.  On Saturday, April 1, 2017, the Ahkwesasne Freedom School held their annual pancake breakfast, with all eggs provided by Mother Earth Eggs.

According the SRMT Agriculture Program Manager, fresh organic eggs have a roughly 6-week shelf life.  The way you can test your eggs is by submerging them in a bowl of water.  If an egg lays flat on the bottom of the bowl that means it is fresh.  If the egg starts standing up it just means it is a little older, but still edible.  If the egg is floating on top of the water it is no good, toss out immediately.

Mother Earth Eggs is a 2-year project, but they are hoping to continue on, if funding can be acquired.  Another vital point in this project is community support.  These eggs can be purchased at all three Bears Den locations, the Akwesasne Mini-Mart, 3 Feathers Internet Café, and Twin Leaf Stores.

The Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Program (ACR) To Wrap Up Fourth Year- Barbara Tarbell, Program Manager for the Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Program provided an update to the community on their 4-year program involving language and apprenticeship in four main areas: Fishing/River Use, Traditional Medicines/Healing, Hunting and Trapping, and Horticulture/Traditional Foods.  Three main goals identified include the implementation of Kanienkeha in all areas of the apprenticeships, funding of existing programs, and the preservation of the language and basket making.

The four apprenticeship program curriculums are immersed in Kanien’keha, and ceremonial cycles.  They all take a traditional approach to how they are conducted, taking those ceremonial cycles in to consideration throughout the year.  The Horticulture/Traditional Foods program, Ratiienthos tanon Kakhwa’on:we, involves the preparation of gardens, seed starting, greenhouse maintenance, tapping trees (wahtha), apple tree grafting, harvesting/preserving gardens (white corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, greens, tobacco), worm casting and the construction of worm farms, composting, and  bee hive maintenance.  The apprentices include Tekonwakwenni Nanticoke, Konwarihonnienne Sue Ann Swamp, and Tehahonkohtha Scott Martin.

The Fishing/River Use Program, Ronhriohkawi:ne tanon Kaniatara:ke Rontstha, has been involved in the safety and awareness of the rivers, boats, and equipment, while developing basic safety skills that are also responsible, respectful and sustainable.  They have built their own equipment such as boats, ice shanties, and fish boxes.  Operating around the fishing cycles, seasons, and fish habitats, they have learned preservation techniques including cleaning, preparation, smoking, and canning.  Apprentices include Sabrina Thompson-Buckshot; Eric Sunday-Johnson, and Audrey Herne.

Traditional Medicines and Healing, Ononhkwa’shon:’a O’on:wara tanon Iakotsien:tha,  involves plant identification, medicine harvesting, and presentations of the body system and medicinal qualities of different plants.  This apprenticeship involves traditional protocols, speeches, song & ceremony, the Four Sacred ceremonies, Chief protocols, Clan Mothers, and Faith Keepers.  The apprentices include Sa’teiokwen Cole, Takatsitsionkie Cook, Shonori:se Allen Smoke, and Tsionerahtase Angie Barnes.

The Hunting and Trapping apprenticeship, Ronto:rats tanon Ronteristaiens, involves a curriculum that has established solid hunting and trapping skills, with a focus on deer, turkey, muskrat, and beaver, while developing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual relationships with animals through songs, ceremony, and practice. The apprentices include Ranekenteron Angello Johnson, Teiohontsiakwente Skidders, and Tehawenniserahthe Aaron Adams.  Public demonstrations and workshops have been provided over the past three years, for each program.

In January of 2017 ACR advertised a call-out for proposals for the ACR Grant of $100,000.  Of the 33 proposals submitted 20 were screened out.  On March 2nd, 2017 the top 3 proposals were selected which include the Akwesasne Cultural Center, The Akwesasne Freedom School Language Nest, and the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment.

The Akwesasne Cultural Center will seek to support the Mohawk language, educational signage to increase vocabulary on rivers, medicinal plants, trails, traditional foods, and many places of interest.  There will be signage and brochures implemented throughout the Akwesasne Territory.

The Akwesasne Freedom School Language Nest plans to provide immersion daycare service, a safe and healthy family oriented place that fosters Mohawk language and cultural education.  It will provide to children culture through activities, healthy eating, storytelling, singing, and interactions with Akwesasronon Elders.

The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment are committed to providing Maple Teachings, sap collection, continued seed giveaway/sharing, black ash tree workshops, basket making workshops, fruit tree workshops, orchard maintenance, apple workshops, and Mohawk language curriculum development.

These three programs have been awarded $100,000, with a timeframe of April 2017- December 31, 2018.

Tribal Chief Announcements & New Business-  Directly following these presentations, Chief Eric Thompson made an announcement on behalf of the SRMT Education Dept., that the iCollege/Career Internship Program is seeking 20 youth workers, the STEPS Program is seeking 17 youth workers, and the Career Pathway program is seeking 40 participants.  An announcement and advertisement will be made public around mid-April.  These options will be open to any student returning from college, in college, or in high school.  Guidelines will be further outlined in the SRMT announcement later this month.

Tribal Council has passed a TCR in regards to Elders Benefit Community Committee, to include the following community members: Lois Thomas, James Ransom, Gary Burnham, Diane Boots, Brayden Sonny White, Chessie Thomas, and Dorothy Costello.

New business consisted of discussions regarding the former Bingo Palace site and the ongoing effort to create a lacrosse training center for youth, electricity reduction of the casino, land claims updates, and new legislators that are taking place since the Trump Administration has taken office.  An Akwesasronon elder made a statement saying, “If people would go out and vote we could take this over.  Look what we did with the schools, we got in there.  It took time, but people are warming up to that idea.”

Currently, Tribal Council is trying to work with State lobbyists and the NYS Taxation Dept. to accept state tax exemption across the state.  There were no new action items taken down at the April 1st monthly Tribal Meeting.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe welcomes all Tribal Member to attend their monthly meetings each month.  The next monthly meeting will be held on May 6th, 2017 at 10AM in the lobby of the SRMT Community Building.

Written By: Ohseraseia:hawi

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