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Onondaga County promises to-be-determined piece of land to Onondaga Nation

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga Nation supporters protesting the Onondaga County Legislature going back on its promise to turn over Murphy's Island to the nation.

It may not be the original plan to turn Murphy’s Island over to the Onondaga Nation, but Onondaga County lawmakers have promised to turn over some other piece of land along Onondaga Lake to the nation.

Five years ago, Onondaga County lawmakers promised the Onondaga Nation that it could have a 36-acre piece of land near the southern shore of Onondaga Lake called Murphy’s Island. Tuesday, lawmakers went back on that promise, approving a resolution that makes all of the land surrounding the lake accessible to the public.

To blunt criticism of that move, legislators created a committee that will work with the leaders of the Onondaga Nation to find a different piece of land to offer to the Onondaga’s. Heading up that group will be Legislator Mike Plochocki, who says there is some land under consideration.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Onondaga County Legislator Mike Plochocki

"We talked to the Onondaga Nation and said what do you think of this, what do you think of that. What are some things you would think, so behind the scenes there are some very specific pieces that are being talked about. That being said, we didn’t want to cloud the discussion today if we didn’t want to move there,” said Plochocki.

The move brought out more than two dozen people to legislature chambers Tuesday, many carrying big purple signs saying things like “Honor the 2011 Resolution,” and “Don’t Renege on Your Promise.” In the end, opponents seemed resigned to the move, though supporter Lindsay Speer wants any future discussions to take certain things into account.

“Murphy’s Island was a sizable piece of land, and the Onodnaga County Legislature should absolutely be making sure that the land they give back to the Onondaga Nation is a similar size,” said Speer.

Onondaga Lake has long been sacred to the Haudenosaunee, as warring nations accepted a message of peace along the lakeshore. It has been undergoing a massive cleanup after years of industrial pollution. Onondaga County is working on ways to loop the lake with a path that would encourage access to the lake from all points.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.