October 27 event to unveil Native American sites discovered on O-A’s main campus

The Owego Apalachin school district will host an event on Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Owego Elementary School auditorium, to showcase findings of archaeological excavations by the Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) at Binghamton University at the sites of the new OES building and the district’s new maintenance facility. The event will also link the past to present through remarks by an Onondaga Nation representative.

The program, called “Those Who Came Before Us: Archaeology at the Owego Apalachin School Campus,” will consist of a 2 p.m. presentation to elementary students at OES, followed by a more extensive program for members of the community, which will begin at 4 p.m.

Dr. Nina Versaggi, director of PAF and the organization’s lead archaeologist, will offer an introduction to the program. PAF’s Andrea Zlotucha Kozub, the project director, will offer a PowerPoint presentation to discuss the archaeological investigations at the two Native American sites, both of which are believed to have been created thousands of years before Europeans arrived in this region.

Wendy Gonyea, a Clan Mother of the Onondaga Nation, will address the audience and talk about Native Americans today. “The flood of 2011 was devastating, but it allowed us a small window to the ancient past,” said Corey Green, OA School superintendent. “Through the university’s research, we’ve learned that on the Owego Elementary School parcel, a small site showed where one or two people stopped on the banks of Owego Creek, and created tools needed for hunting, and hundreds of stone by-products from the production of these tools emerged during the excavations.”

“Among the 500-plus artifacts we found were three spear points (Brewerton),” said Dr. Versaggi, “one point in process, and two pitted stones probably used as platforms for making tools.” She said the OES site dates to before 1600 B.C., and likely closer to 5,000 years ago.

“Regarding the maintenance facility parcel,” Dr. Versaggi said, “archaeologists found another Native American site that dates between 1800 and 1600 B.C., or close to 4,000 years ago.”

More than 4,000 Native American artifacts were found on the new maintenance building parcel, most the by-products of making stone tools. Finished tools included spear points, and other tools for fishing, cutting meat and scraping hides. Also discovered was a stone tool (called an “adze”), which was likely used in woodworking, such as hollowing out wooden bowls and dugout canoes. Also, four stains discovered in the ground likely related to cooking / heating hearths and other activities requiring fire.

The OA School site is a series of small camps created for hunting and fishing 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.

The Oct. 27 event will include an important component that links such discoveries to Native Americans living today. “This glimpse into the lives of Native Americans from thousands of years ago is not the end of our story,” said Dr. Versaggi. “We are working with the Onondaga and Seneca Nations today to commemorate the sites of their ancestors.”

Anthony Gonyea, an artist and Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation, will create a replica of a wampum belt for display and interpretation in one of the OA district’s schools. Wampum belts are composed of shell beads sewn onto a fabric, said Dr. Versaggi. “They are used to tell a story or record an important event,” she said. “Mr. Gonyea is making a two-row wampum belt, which is of historical significance.”

During her address, Wendy Gonyea will talk about the wampum belt and what it means to the Onondaga and others. She will touch on the lives of Native Americans today and how they maintain many of their traditional customs and ceremonies, as well as how they interact with other communities.

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