The Sullivan Campaign workshop and conference held at Ithaca College last Sunday was a tremendous success. Fifteen speakers from all walks of life -- academics, activists, reenactors, Native clan mothers and leaders all reflected on the meanings of the Sullivan Campaign.
In 1779, George Washington, known as “Town Destroyer” to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), sent a third of the Continental Army through the Finger Lakes to destroy the Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca Nations. This was a scorched earth campaign of destruction, waged in part by a nearly bankrupt U.S. at the height of the Revolutionary War to grab land to pay soldiers. It also set the stage for the westward expansion via the Erie Canal and railroads.
The staging of this reflective conference on an act of genocide so near to Columbus Day was not lost on the participants. The Sullivan Campaign is the most important historic event of the Finger Lakes, and it has been revised, forgotten, or just erased from memory. This well-attended mini-conference was one step toward setting the record straight and educating the public.
A few highlights of the conference were the speeches by Birdie Hill (Heron Clan Mother, Cayuga Nation) and Freida Jacques (Onondaga Nation) giving the native perspective, Syracuse University professor Philip Arnold's discussion of how locusts saved some people, and the connections between the campaign and the early American feminist movement, discussed by Sally Roesch Wagner. Brooke Olson (IC) discussed the ethnopolitical tensions and racism against Native people in the region, Bob Spiegelman demonstrated his website with its terrific maps and graphics of the campaign, and Geri Reisenger discussed the plans for a Haudenosaunee cultural center to be built in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. There was heated discussion about the pros and cons of reenacting events like the Sullivan Campaign. The crowd stayed engaged through nearly five hours of talks!
Do you know about the scorched earth campaign that occurred here in the Finger Lakes? I want to thank the IC sponsors one more time:
Department of Anthropology
Department of Sociology
Department of History
Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity
Diversity Awareness Committee
Thank you for making this amazing event possible. If you missed it, we’ll hopefully see you next year for a second installment!