|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Twenty Two
God's Innocent Children
Wednesday, February 24, 1988
"Why do you care what happens to the Onondagas?" My question was simple and direct. I was talking to Lee on the phone, pacing my living room restlessly on my phone's 25 foot leash. It was our first talk since our adventure Sunday.
"Let's just say I'm an old soul who's experienced a lot on planet Earth. Past history leads us to our future. If the past doesn't provide a strong foundation, our dreams for our future will crumble and fail. Humanity is part of the Earth just like air, rocks and trees. An unjust act against Humanity creates an injury to the planet and weakens the foundation of our future."
An elegant and eloquent statement which echoed my own belief. I said, "True, but why is Onondaga Nation so important to .you? Or are you a hopeless idealist like me?"
"Maybe, but I've my own reasons for concern. Earth is an old, old place and humans are a special part of the planet. Everything on Earth was put here in a certain careful balance, including the human family. For our planet to be in balance we must address neglect and abuse of human family members."
I agreed, "Certainly the red race is in a very injured condition today. Our Onondaga friends have a special message to deliver to humanity, and I think it's time we heard from them."
"Very true," Lee returned, "but the problem is some things that were done must be not just cleaned up, but, shall we say 'purified.' If a village is massacred at a place and their bodies disposed of improperly, it leaves a scar there for a long time. Or, in ancient times, people practiced ritual human sacrifice at certain places. This leaves a shadow on the land for centuries."
I thought of where we now believed a human body lay buried, probably victim of a murder. "I've no experience to trust my ability to dowse a buried human body, but the notion a body in the ground leaves an emotional scar on the land now has relevance to me. I don't know what to make of Ellen's vision of a murder, but if violent death leaves a shadow on land, perhaps she saw that shadow."
Lee jostled my memory. "Remember the woman said that in her dream she saw someone shot and buried. That's three different sources that say something there is disturbed."
"Yes, I remember. This could be quite interesting indeed. Like stories of old Egypt when Pharaoh killed the architect of his castle so no one knew its hidden passages and chambers. There may be more ghosts than Marley at the scrap yard."
This provoked a chuckle from Lee. "Yes. Remember the woman also mentioned she saw an Indian village massacred there, too. If the Onondaga village is indeed under Marley's, we have quite a situation here. I say 'if,' not because I doubt your dowsing but because hardly anybody else will believe you."
"I was also struck that the treaties mention Marley's so many times," I said. "Sitting in my car Sunday reading I was about to dig a hole at the place of beginning certainly cast a shadow over the day. I wasn't enthusiastic about the job anyway."
"Speaking of treaties, I've studied them more carefully. The first one, the one you call the Salt Treaty, is pretty clear. But the others contain the most confounding legal language. It will take a bit to decipher what they say. Probably the strategy was to complicate the verbiage to confuse the Onondagas."
"Each successive treaty displays progressive deterioration of clear thinking as civilization took hold," I concurred. "Some don't even have punctuation and are terrible abuses of English language. The last one shows definite sings of brain damage by its author. Probably to the right brain, too." We laughed together, then I added, "Especially the phrase in order to render the position of the Onondagoes more comfortable... shows how language can obscure the terrible truth of an act."
A knock came at my door. I walked to the door and peered out. A young man with round face and round wire glasses looked back. I opened the door and greeted my visitor.
"Hi. Bill Ferguson, Lifestyle reporter from the Herald."
I said, "Yes, I'm expecting you. Take off your coat and boots. I'll be with you shortly. I need to finish this conversation."
"No problem. I can wait," he assured me.
I turned a few steps into the living room and leaned my elbows on the bookcase to resume talking with Lee. "It's a reporter, so I need to end this soon. But let's continue."
Lee went on, "It's important to know specific lands affected by each treaty. That requires looking at old maps. I'll look around the Historical Society and French Fort for the early maps to see how the land was divided."
"Pyramid's DEIS had several old maps in the appendix. None looked very useful for this research," I suggested.
"I'm sure there's other maps. At some point the land was surveyed, so there's a map from that time. The land was divided in military tracts which were since subdivided."
"You'll never find the basswood tree in the second treaty," I pointed out. "Without locating that tree you can't mark that tract. It startled me when I read the first treaty's first clause: The Onondagoes do hereby cede and grant all their lands to the people of the State of New York forever. It's too complete and final. My sense of universal justice says you can't take a people's land away forever."
Lee was silent a moment, then said, "God protects his innocent children who foolishly give away their gifts from Him. There's something wrong in these treaties that's been hidden for 200 years. I think it's time for this to come out."
This took me by surprise but deep in my mind I knew it must be true. "I know Oneida Nation pursued their land claim based on New York's violating the 1790 Indian Non-Intercourse Act of the newly formed US Congress which specified no state or private person could make a treaty or take land from an Indian tribe without consent of Congress. In street language, the 1790 Act says anyone who screwed the Indians without the consent of Congress was guilty of rape. And New York raped the Oneidas."
Lee was too intent on our discussion to respond to the blue humor. He replied, "Yes, that could be the issue. I don't know but I consulted my own sources and all I can tell you is talk to your Onondaga friends and tell them to speak with their brothers in Canada. The answer lies in Canada."
This provoked no response in my mind. I finally said, "You may have something. After the Revolutionary War the Iroquois split up. Many returned to the Finger Lakes to rebuild their villages but many moved to Canada to live under British protection. So there were Iroquois nations on both sides of the US-Canadian border at the time of the treaties. Perhaps treaties weren't properly ratified by all the Onondagas. Under Iroquois law perhaps treaties had to be ratified by all chiefs and clans. Maybe Onondagas in Canada weren't consulted. I'll mention your information to Irving next time I speak to him."
"The Iroquois have lawyers. Someone argued the Oneida case before the Supreme Court. They're not sitting around watching dust pile up on the treaties. Indians are always talking about treaties. They haven't forgotten or given up."
My voice hardened, "I'm not giving up on the transformers, either. I used to be afraid of PCBs getting in the lake. Since
Sunday I've become seriously concerned about a major fire at Marley's. I have to ask you - you smelled gasoline and saw oil in our hole, didn't you?"
"Yep," he said. "Quite a shock. But the place is called Oil City. What else would you find in the ground at Oil City?"
"If there's a lot of hazardous waste buried there and it went up in smoke, I'd move out of Onondaga Valley. I've seen from an airplane what wind currents do at the mouth of Onondaga Valley. A lot of land could be contaminated. But what do I know? I'm no technician, geologist or toxicologist."
Lee replied, "Maybe not, but common sense and a sense of smell is all you need to know there's unusual things under Marley's. Congel should think thrice before building there."
"I'd better jump," I said. "I'm keeping a reporter waiting. Not a good idea if I want good press. Thanks for coming Sunday. I couldn't have done it without you. I was ready to give up when you grabbed that conduit. Your aim punctured the beast. Maybe someday the whole story will be told and you'll get credit. For now you're safely anonymous. I'll risk being the fool - the turtle with his neck stuck way out."
"By the way," I added, "I got a toothache and abscess after Sunday. It's better today thanks to some natural medicine. Probably just my bad eating and the cold wind on my face. Did you have any side effects?"
"I got a mite of a toothache myself," Lee replied. "Let's talk again in a few days. We're in for quite an adventure here."
"Tell me some good news," I groaned. "I'll stay in touch."
I began to seriously wonder if Onondaga Nation had a land claim due to an irregularity in the treaties, but I had serious doubts about that. The Salt Treaty's first clause seemed to thoroughly lock the Onondagas out of any possibility of a claim. And the second treaty used the specific language quit claim forever.
But Lee must be right. There must be a mistake hidden in those legal phrases and concepts.
Exactly what the error might be I couldn't know. I'm no lawyer, nor did I know a lawyer who could answer such a question. But someone argued the Oneida claim before the Supreme Court, so there are legal minds with legal opinions on the legal issues.
In the last decade the Oneida and Cayuga tribes made land claims. Cayugas have no land for even a single home so their claim is a sore issue between Iroquois and New York. Oneidas are only left with 32 acres near the center of Madison County.
I remembered newspaper headlines a few years back announcing the Supreme Court decision in favor of Oneidas. Failing to extinguish the claim New York State was forced into serious negotiation to resolve it. The Court's decision put a cloud on title to hundreds of square miles of land, threatening owners, banks and municipalities with bankruptcy.
However, this morning I had no time to reflect. A reporter stood waiting. I wondered how much of my conversation he heard. "All of it, I hope," I said to myself as I turned to him.
He was young, almost collegiate. I'd expected an older, seasoned reporter. He seemed honest, sincere, sensitive! and trustworthy. But I remained suspicious how the newspaper editors might chose to portray my honest comments to him. It seemed obvious both daily papers supported the Oil City project. It would be easy to discredit an eccentric like me. I wondered what to say, and what not, and how.
"Thanks for waiting. Let's sit at the dining table," I said and led the way. We settled at opposite sides of the table. He got out a small tape recorder and notepad.
"I'm only an intern at the Herald. I'm in Journalism at Syracuse University. My advisor is Noreen Shelley. When I told her my assignment this week, she was excited that I'd this interview you."
"Oh really! Noreen's a great friend. She and her husband are steady supporters of the Center for Self Healing I founded years ago. Their daughter developed physiological problems which were early symptoms of Multiple Schlerosis. The whole family began a macrobiotic diet and their daughter's health has steadily improved. I see them at the Center's dinners often."
My conversation with Lee had loosened my tongue and tickled my spirit. It would be easy to open up to this young man who was associated with such a good friend. "I'm more than a little nervous about this," I confessed. "I'm in a very vulnerable position and facing up to powerful interests. I worry your paper will try to make me out to be a kook. I'm an unusual person and it wouldn't be hard to make me look nutty."
His smile was awkward but genuine. I knew I had nothing to fear from him. He began, "What is the Center where you eat with Noreen? You started the place? It sounds unusual."
We talked for nearly two hours, covering much of my past as well as the situation at Marley's. I said little about the esoteric aspects and the Onondaga Nation. The time flew by pleasantly and I felt relieved with our communication. But then there were his editors. I remained nervous about the exposure.
That afternoon the Syracuse New Times carried another report on my adventures on the What's Shakin' page:
David Yarrow was ready to accept the consequences of civil disobedience as he prepared to dig on the site of the proposed Carousel Center shopping mall. He's trying to expose PCB-laden electric transformers he believes are buried there.
He was more concerned, however, about the consequences of the toxin he anticipated uncovering. "I don't really want to dig this hole," he said, "I want to have kids. But if this doesn't get to the bottom of things, at least it will expose the first layer."
Though he announced his intent, authorities didn't interrupt Yarrow's dig, which he was relieved to find wasn't on Pyramid's site exactly, but rather on a strip of land owned by Conrail. "That kind of trespass may be less serious," he mused, "because DEC said it might be able to initiate an. investigation on land owned by the rail company." That action depends on analysis of water samples Yarrow obtained digging a three foot trench.
|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
144 pages, 8.5 x 11 soft cover
available from Turtle EyeLand
While not opposed to the Carousel Center, Yarrow believes Pyramid's plan for dealing with toxic substances on the site will be dangerous and further pollute Onondaga Lake. Aside from transformers buried along the railroad tracks, he believes others are located beneath the surface of Marley's scrap yard, the site of the mall. "In Dickens' A Christmas Carol," Yarrow pointed out, "Marley was the ghost of the business partner who came back in chains to remind Scrooge of what he'd done."
This report was basically accurate and favorable, but it contained a few misstatements and confused messages. For one, DEC won't be happy to read they said they might investigate on Conrail property. Trespass is trespass, whether on Marley's or Conrail. There was no explanation of what the other layers are. My statement about Marley's ghost was confusion of mangled metaphor. And there was no mention at all of the oil in my hole.
Most of all, I was embarrassed by my statement, "I want to have kids." What an odd comment to have quoted in public print.