The Peoples of the Susquehanna River

The Peoples of the Susquehanna River 

The Susquehanna River can trace it's American colonial history back to the 1600s. European settlers were drawn to the Susquehanna's fertile valleys and abundant resources, bringing their hopes of prosperity, and their conflicts, with them.

But long before their arrival, there were others who called this region home. They were people who traveled the length of the Susquehanna and knew it well ... People who were one with the landscape. Who were they, and where did they go? And what have they left behind?

Peoples of the Susquehanna River is an original documentary film produced by WVIA Public Media and Bucknell University. The one-hour program examines the history, cultures and traditions of the Native Americans of the Susquehanna River watershed. Prehistoric tribes, whose existence over 1000 years ago can still be discovered up and down the river from New York State to the west branch to the Chesapeake Bay.

Peoples of the Susquehanna River premieres at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16 on WVIA-TV.

Northcentral Chapter 8, Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology participated in the making of this documentary, hosting WVIA's film crew and Director/Producer Kris Hendrickson at the Glunk Site in 2016. WVIA interviewed then-president Tom "Tank" Baird about the work NCC8 has been conducting in the region for more than 60 years, adding to the archaeological record of prehistoric people.

Rare Native American Effigy
Also prominent in the documentary is a rare Native American human effigy, owned by Baird and on loan to the Lycoming County Historical Society, Taber Museum. The human effigy was made by the Clemson’s Island People, a Native American culture living in the Susquehanna River valley area approximately 1,000 years ago.

This artifact was found at the first registered archaeological excavation in Lycoming County, designated 36LY1 in 1957, by North Central Chapter 8 of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology. It was excavated near the Brock Village Site near Muncy, PA.

This village was associated with the Brock Burial Mound, however, the effigy was not found within the confines of that mound. The eyes were made from fresh water pearls and expertly set in the clay effigy. The features on the face are etched and carved beautifully and holes were drilled in the perimeter of the skull to accommodate feathers. Archaeologists know this because feather residue was found in those holes.

Originally bound for a museum, it disappeared into private collections and although drawings and pictures have appeared in artifact and archaeological publications since 1957, the effigy was never on public display until now. Purchased by Anita and Tom “Tank” Baird from a private collector, this work of art quickly became part of a community conservation effort.

A replica of the effigy is also on display, and was produced using a laser scan and 3D imaging and merges the ancient with high technology as part of this conservation. Hendrickson brought the WVIA film crew into the lab to capture footage of the laser scan.

According to Hendrickson, in the documentary, we also get to know the later tribes of the Eastern Woodlands, the Susquehannocks, the Lenni Lenape and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Their influence on arriving European settlers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was significant. But the inevitable clash of cultures, as well as the European's need to possess this land they'd discovered, drove these indigenous peoples off of the lands of their ancestors. Their contributions to the American society we know today are largely forgotten ... unless you know where to look.

Leaders, artists, teachers and citizens of the Lenni Lenape and the Iroquois Confederacy share with us their traditions and their philosophies. Their stories paint pictures of a people whose stewardship of the environment has only grown more crucial in today's industrial world. These peoples are still here, their culture still vibrant. And with some help from environmental groups, educators and students, they continue to preserve and protect mother earth for the next seven generations.