Local TV station partners with humanities students to produce ‘Peoples of the Susquehanna’

Amy Collins, Contributing Writer

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The film, “Peoples of the Susquehanna,” produced by the University and WVIA-TV premiered at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at the downtown Campus Theatre. The film analyzes the Native Americans of the Susquehanna River Watershed, particularly their history, cultures, and traditions. It explores nations of the Eastern Woodlands, the Lenni Lenape, the Susquehannocks, and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, while also addressing the findings of varied prehistoric nations whose existence dates back over 1,000 years.

WVIA’s Kris Hendrickson, director and editor of the documentary, interviewed leaders, artists, teachers and citizens of the Lenni Lenape and Iroquois Confederacy to unpack indigenous traditions, philosophies, and influence on today’s industrial world.

“Their [Native American peoples’] influence on arriving European settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries was significant. But the clash of cultures with the settlers drove these indigenous peoples off of the lands of their ancestors. Their contributions to the American society we know today are largely forgotten… unless you know where to look,” Hendrickson said.

Since 2010, the University’s “Stories of the Susquehanna Valley” environmental humanities project has been developing an interdisciplinary curriculum, undergraduate work, and has published scholarly and digital projects, including student-produced documentaries.

Following the film’s premiere, the Campus Theatre screened a student film entitled “The Coopers and Conservation at the Headwaters of the Susquehanna.” This student-made documentary focuses on Cooperstown, N.Y. and the influential writings of James and Susan Fenimore Cooper, who wrote extensively about nature. “The Coopers and Conservation at the Headwaters of the Susquehanna” explores the way the Coopers’ work inspired others to think and care about nature, and how that is exemplified in Cooperstown. Hendrickson aided University students in the development of this film.

“Our students, faculty and staff have partnered with WVIA on public projects that engage communities in the region, especially with a focus on the Susquehanna watershed,” Alf Siewers, professor and chair of the English department, said. “Video storytelling is a natural part of that effort and WVIA is expert at that.”

Siewers said the documentary builds on a book that “Stories of the Susquehanna” published with the University Press, and on curricular and other connections with native communities fostered by former University men’s lacrosse coach and a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) elder, Sid Jamieson. The film also touches on professor of German studies and comparative humanities Katie Faull’s work on Moravian accounts of eighteenth-century interactions with indigenous peoples in the region. Faull was also a co-editor of the “Stories of the Susquehanna Valley” project.

“Peoples of the Susquehanna”’ will first air on WVIA-TV at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16. Additional airtimes on WVIA-TV are as follows: at 2 p.m. on Nov. 17, at 4 p.m. on Nov. 21, and at 8 p.m. on Nov. 23.

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