HarborLAB launched into the new season with a celebration of the first mariners of our harbor.
Center for Algonquin Culture Founder Evan Pritchard joined HarborLAB at our launch for a participatory lecture and season opening ceremony before launching onto the creek. He also blessed the 100 trees we gave away through the MillionTreesNYC program with New York Restoration Project. We distributed redbuds, tulip trees, sassafras, and hackberries. We’ll plant a hackberry on our property and 20 sassafras around Jamaica Bay on June 1.
We also named canoes for environmental heroes and estuary life, flying artistic flags from them: The Rachel Carson, the River Singer (Pete Seeger, with his own drawn design), the Jenni “Appleseed” Jenkins, the Bernie Ente, The Muskrat, and The Tuliptree. HarborLAB Communications Manager Caroline Walker was art director for this beautifully executed project, with help from EJ Lee, Anandi Premlall, Erik Baard, Tracy Coon, and Nadine Chandy.
Professor Pritchar is known as Abachbahamedtch, or “Chipmunk,” to his fellow Micmac Algonquins. For us, this reflects how he eagerly gathers seeds of knowledge. He has lectured widely, including at the American Museum of Natural History. Erik Baard’s Village Voice cover article “Holy Waters” included an interview with Pritchard.
Pritchard played flutes beautifully and shared lore and history ashore and afloat. We rafted up to hear an overview of the First Nations settlements in the area, and how tulip tree canoes were a shared public transportation network. Because the canoes were too heavy to take out of the water, they were left in for others to use. We paddled from the HarborLAB launch to the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, where Pritchard used markers carved with Native names as touchstones for a lecture.
A wonderful surprise was when Newtown Creek Alliance Chair Dorothy Morehead spotted tracks on the Newtown Creek steps, which Baard identified as muskrat.