Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Akwesasne's 2018 Great River Cleanup

Each year pulls up eyepopping garbage


Jessica Shenandoah, Thompson Island Camp Coordinator, registers volunteers for the Great River Cleanup. Here Azure Brown signs her and her children up.

On Friday, August 3 the community of Akwesasne gathered for the third Annual Great River Cleanup. This event is co-sponsored by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Environment Division, the St. Lawrence River Institute, and joining in for the second year – the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.

Each year the Great River Cleanup expands. The first year the cleanup area covered from King's Marina to Adam's Marina. Last year they expanded to include the St. Regis River and this year they added the Racquette River.

Volunteers arrived at 8am, registered and then proceeded to work alone in canoes and kayaks or in a group on pontoons, fishing boats and barges. Volunteers cleaned until noon and afterwards enjoyed a spaghetti dinner provided by the American Legion Post 1479 Auxiliary.

Working with less volunteers this year, the amount of garbage pulled from the St. Lawrence, St. Regis and Racquette Rivers is still astounding. Among the more eye-popping pieces of garbage were a full back axle, complete with two tires, a 1951 car, several hot water tanks and propane cylinders, tires, and a complete aluminum roof. They also pulled hundreds of bottles and cans along with other small miscellaneous waste items that could easily be thrown into a waste/garbage container. Some debris was found from the 2018 spring flood, but not as much as one would expect; save for a complete roof that was pulled in.

Jay Wilkins, Tony David and Tsiorasa Barreiro clean the St. Regis River.

Adding an entirely different dimension to the 2018 Great River Cleanup were two experienced divers from Seaway Valley divers: Patricia O'Hara and Andy Buist. Each year they volunteer for river cleanups from Kingston to Quebec City. It was O'Hara and Buist who found two vehicles in the Snye Channel – a 1951 and 1957. By using underwater cameras, video and sonar equipment they are able to pinpoint an object, secure it, and their support crew pull the object out of the water. They hope to add more divers for next year's cleanup.

The three rivers in Akwesasne: the St. Lawrence, St. Regis and Racquette River, provide drinking water to thousands of people and habitat for countless species of animals and plants. However, trash and pollution degrade the rivers' health, safety and beauty. It is our responsibility to maintain it for future generations.

Including the Akwesasne River Cleanup, the St. Lawrence River Institute was involved in a total of nine cleanup events last year, pulling a total of over twenty tons of garbage out of rivers in 2017. The Great River Cleanup is collaboration between Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, the St. Lawrence River Institute and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.


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