Demand Onondaga County Keep Promise to Return Land to Onondaga

Please contact Onondaga County legislators and tell them the new Onondaga Lake shoreline resolution needs to be rewritten to explicitly protect the ability to give land on the shores of Onondaga Lake back to the Onondaga Nation. Sign the online petition

The Onondaga County Legislature is currently considering a resolution that would effectively break a promise made to the Onondaga Nation to give them back a small portion of shoreline on their sacred lake. Governments breaking promises to Native Americans is not a new story, but isn't it time we stopped repeating the injustices of the past? Reneging on our promise to the Onondaga Nation will bring shame and negative national publicity to our community.

Get the details here:  2011 resolutionCurrent resolution.

  1. Contact the legislators. David KnappCasey JordanBrian MayPatrick KilmartinDerek SheperdMonica Williams, Linda Ervin, Ryan McMahon, David H. Knapp, Judith A. Tassone, Kathleen A. Rapp, Kevin A. Holmquist.

        Phone numbers can be found at

  1. Contact County Executive Joanie Mahoney immediately to request revision of the new resolution to protect Murphy's Island for the Onondaga. This new resolution originates from her office. 315-435-3516 or at

  2. Attend meeting  May 3, Tuesday, 1 pm (Resolution first item on agenda.)

  3. Sign the online petition

Health Risks

The U.S. EPA is relying on the 2011 resolution to define the “intended use” for an upcoming Human Health Risk Assessment. This determines the amount of remediation for the Murphy’s Island site. The Onondaga Nation is requiring cleaning it up to subsistence use standards.

According to the U.S. EPA, if the County's resolution passes, the Human Health Risk Assessment would likely be adjusted for the general public user, setting the baseline for cleanup at a less-protective level. (The rationale being that Americans do not regularly collect plants or fish for eating... that's an assumption that is clearly wrong, but that's a whole other issue)


In 2011, at the urging of many Onondaga County residents, the Onondaga County legislature passed a resolution stating they intended to give land on Onondaga Lake - an area known as "Murphy's Island" in particular - back to the Onondaga Nation. It's a badly polluted site, part of the Onondaga Lake Superfund site that Honeywell is responsible for re-mediating, and the resolution acknowledges the need to clean it up to the Onondaga Nation's standards prior to the land transfer. It's also the winter home of the eagles that visit Onondaga Lake and one of the few areas of the lake shore without a trail across it.
It's a small gesture, in the grand scheme of all the harm that has been done to the Onondaga Nation, its territory and people over the past 250 years, but it was a step in the right direction.  It was a step towards healing. See Onondaga County Executive Joanne Mahoney express publicly her commitment to return land to the Onondaga Nation on June 12, 2012.
Now, a new resolution to instead keep all land around Onondaga Lake as Onondaga County land in perpetuity was passed by the Onondaga County Environmental Committee last Wednesday and will be considered by the Onondaga County Legislature on May 3.  This is being railroaded through in an attempt to avoid notice. 
Let's be clear: the Loop the Lake trail does not need to go across Murphy's Island. There are other routes available to complete the loop that could provide much-needed pedestrian and bike access to the Farmer's Market, the Regional Transportation Center, and Destiny USA. 
Please contact county legislators and let them know your thoughts, and join us on May 3 at 1 pm at the Onondaga County Legislature to ensure Onondaga County keeps its word to the Onondaga Nation.