Tag Archives: story

The New River, A Personal Story, SLR/IRL

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Ed and I along the New River, 2017

The best way to learn to is to live-it.

This weekend a series of coincidences allowed me to personalize and learn the story of Ft Lauderdale’s New River, a neighbor in the water system of the Everglades and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. It is good to know about your neighbors, as you know, we are all in this water quandary together.

So my husband’s friend Dr Juan Savelli organized an evening at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. We went to see the former lead singer of Men at Work, Colin Hay. After dinner along Los Olas, we walked across the street to the show.

And there I saw her, the river. Seawalled and controlled, no longer able to freely form a “new river” what made her reputation as told by some of the state’s earliest surveyors; her brown waters were no longer clear and teaming with wildlife as noted in some of the earliest accounts by pioneers and Seminoles; the river had been connected to canals and drainage waters of Lake Okeechobee long ago; nonetheless, she certainly remained beautiful, staring back at me with the city lights of mankind, her lion-tamer, shining behind her.

I stared at the water daydreaming, putting my day of coincidences or “serendipity,” as my mother calls it, together. I had spent the day reading UM student Zach Cosner’s incredible thesis paper, and one part came to mind:

“The trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund… would use this money to build five major canals-the North New River, South New River, Miami, Hillsboro, and Caloosahatchee, all connecting from the southern portion of Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean…these canals reached completion towards the end of the 1910s…

Also this day I had visited my neighbor,  Mrs Kelso, who was amazingly celebrating  her 107 birthday! Remarkable. “Sharp as tack,” as they say. Half way through our conversation I asked,”So you were born in…”

“1910” she replied smiling…

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Mrs Kelso my neighbor turned 107 today! The New River Canal was completed around 1910, the year of Mrs Kelso’s birth.

“Wow,” I thought to myself, looking at the river. “Mrs Kelso is exactly as old as some of these first Florida Canals! Impressive.”

“Jacqui!” my friends called. “Let’s go! ”

I tuned and at looked at my friends. I turned and looked at the river…”

“Can I get a picture?” I asked.

Ed and I posed.

A flash in time of a river and a story. Hopefully a story that in the future will consist of men and women even more diligently at work for the New River’s complete and full restoration, and that of the entire Everglades system.

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Canals complete towards end of 1910s, Florida Archives.
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Spanish Land Grant map New River, Florida Memory Project
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1932 canal map. Ray Winkelman, Broward Co.

History

The New River was one of the earliest rivers to be connected to Lake Okeechobee. Highway 27 runs parallel to the canal all the way from the lake to 175. The North Fork of the New  River is attached to the New River Canal; and the South Fork of the New River is connected to the Miami Canal. (see above map) Today it is almost impossible to see the connection of the canals to the river amongst the tangle of development surrounding the river.

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Google map New River and Ft Lauderdale, canals attach near I95
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West of I95
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Overview Lake O is just north…

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Video Men at Work Who Could it Be Now> (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SECVGN4Bsgg)

Wikipedia History of New River:

According to a legend attributed in 1940 to the Seminoles by writers working in the Florida Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration, New River had appeared suddenly after a night of strong winds, loud noises, and shaking ground, resulting in the Seminoles calling the river Himmarshee, meaning “new water”. The report of the Writers’ Project attributed the noise and shaking to an earthquake which collapsed the roof of an underground river.[1] Folk historian Lawrence Will relates that the Seminole name for the river was Coontie-Hatchee, for the coontie (Zamia integrifolia) that grew along the river, and that the chamber of commerce tried to change the name of the river to Himmarshee-Hatchee during the Florida land boom of the 1920s.

The English name is derived from early explorer’s maps. The mouth of the river was noted for its tendency to continuously change its entry point into the Atlantic Ocean through the shifting sand of the barrier island. Each time the coast was surveyed and charted the entry point would have shifted. So the location of the mouth would not be on any previous maps, and from off the coast would appear as if it had just developed. With each charting, the location would be recorded with the notation “new river”. Since that was the name used on the maps, that was the name by which the first settlers came to know it, so the name stayed.

From Broward County.org, “The River’s Decline”

Today the New River is in desperate need of repair. This once crystalline waterway has deteriorated under the strains of immense growth. Water quality has been adversely affected from debris, sedimentation, storm water runoff, and other pollutants. Inappropriate land uses near the water have also contributed to the decline of the River and its tributaries. This degradation of water quality and habitat represent a negative impact on the environment, health, and economy of the Broward County metropolitan area.

Video New River, Florida Memory “Then and Now:”

https://www.floridamemory.com/exhibits/floridamaps/ft_lauderdale.php

History New River, Broward Co.

https://www.broward.org/NaturalResources/Lab/Documents/pub_newriver_1.pdf

New River FDEP: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/N_new_river.pdf

The Great Spirit of Lena Tiger, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Lena Tiger, by James Hutchinson.
Lena Tiger, by James Hutchinson, 2009.

I grew up in Martin County in the 60s and 70s. Nature and “healthier” rivers were abundant and a part of everyday life. We did not comprehend that the rivers were already dying; we did know of a people whose culture had suffered greatly because our white ancestors had “pushed their way in.” In spite of this terrible history,  I was raised to know of the Native People who had lived along our waters’ shores and to respect their ways. We learned of the tribes that had lived here and others throughout our entire country. The Ais, the Seminole, the Miccosukee, the Lakota…

Map Native Tribes of North America-public.
Map Native Tribes of North America-public.

One of the most profound memories of my youth is local artist, James Hutchinson and his wife, Joan, who lived with the Seminole Indians at Brighton Reservation for six years, located on the north rim of Lake Okeechobee. I will share part of their story today.

James Hutchinson, Florida Artist Hall of Fame: (http://dos.myflorida.com/cultural/programs/florida-artists-hall-of-fame/james-f-hutchinson/)

James Hutchison’s website: (http://www.jameshutchinsonart.com/gallery/florida/)

To set the tone, I would like to begin with a reading from Black Elk, a Lakota, from out west:

“I am blind and do not see things of this world; but when the light comes from Above; it enlightens my heart and I can see, for the eye of my heart sees everything. The heart is a sanctuary at the center of which there is a little space, wherein the Great Spirit dwells and this is the eye. This the eye of the Great Spirit by which He sees all things and through which we see Him. If the heart is not pure, the Great Spirit cannot be seen, if you should die in this ignorance your soul cannot return immediately to the Great Spirit but it must be purified by wandering about in the world. In order to know the center heart where the Great Spirit dwells you must be pure and good, and live in the manner that the Great Spirit has taught us. The man who is thus pure contains the Universe in the pocket of his heart.”

It is our hearts that will bring back the river of grass….”Kahayatle”… “Love’s power” is transformative and changes broken people, and broken waters…

So to continue, artist, James Hutchinson, was long time friends of my parents; in 1962 he and his wife Joan received an Arthur Vining Davis Foundation grant, and moved to the Brighton Reservation to paint portraits of the Seminole elders. Many years later, Mr Hutchinson wrote me in a personal letter in 2009 after my husband commissioned him to paint “Lena Tiger”—the figure chosen by Hutchinson when I asked for a woman to go with my warrior prints.

Lena Tiger, by James Hutchinson.
Lena Tiger, by James Hutchinson.
Halpatter, "Alligator." James Hutchinson.
Halpatter, “Alligator.” James Hutchinson.
Holata Micco "Billy Bowlegs II." James Hutchinson.
Holata Micco “Billy Bowlegs II.” James Hutchinson.
Osceola, "Powell." James Hutchinson.
Osceola, “Powell.” James Hutchinson.
Coacoochee, "Wildcat." James Hutchinson.
Coacoochee, “Wildcat.” James Hutchinson.

The letter reads:

“When Joan and I moved to the Seminole Indian Reservation at Brighton, we found ourselves at a loss as to begin our work…there were many weeks where we were isolated from the tribe and we thought we had failed. Lena Tiger was wife of the last true medicine man, Waha-Tiger. She saw how lost we were and came to our rescue, taking us around to meet several families’ campsites scattered around the reservation. Our travels with her gave us a sense of place…Lena introduced us to Billie Bowlegs III who became our close friend and taught us a few words of Muscogee as well as stalking.

She was an endless source of Indian etiquette which was essential to outsiders like us….Lena was a person of the of the highest character, one who witnessed great change and challenges to her people and one who offered the welcomed hand of friendship.”

Without this “friendship, this “love,” Hutchinson would never have been able to document the Seminoles of that era and learn of their historical brothers and sisters first hand. The work that Hutchinson did at Brighton defined his career and helped others appreciate a culture their ancestors had destroyed. Healing begins…

The moral of the story?

We too must offer the hand of “friendship” to our “enemies.” This does not mean that we do not stand up for what we believe in, but it does mean that we open our hearts to those who “cannot see.” It is through being open that the power of the Great Spirit will bring back life, and light, to the Florida Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

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*In their own Miccosukee language, the Tribe uses the word “Ka/ha/ya/tle” to refer to the shimmering waters…the Everglades.