Amid the scattered showers Saturday morning, seven canoes meant to imitate a 17th-century flotilla made their way across Onondaga Lake to the marina outside the Salt Museum. The landing commemorated a similar trek made by Jesuit priests from France coming to set up a mission on the shores of the lake and kicked of Ste. Marie's celebration of its inception 350 years ago.
The occasion was the culmination of months of work designed to memorialize the arrival of the Jesuits among the Onondaga in 1656.
We've been working on this celebration since October or November of last year, Linda Woodrow, marketing director for Ste. Marie, said. We all divided into teams which were coordinated by Gordon Davis, our special events chair.
The weekend opened with the arrival of the canoes, which were built by students from the Huntington Family Center in Syracuse and staffed by Boy Scout Troops as well as other community volunteers. The commemorative flotilla was followed by an opening prayer from Father Daniel Mulhauser of LeMoyne. Mulhauser, who served as a missionary in Guam for 20 years, lauded the faith of the Jesuits who came to Lake Gannentaha that day three and a half centuries ago.
It was not only a celebration of the Christian missionaries, however. The historic role of the Iroquois was also noted on Saturday. John Painted Arm Campbell, a Mohawk who volunteers at Ste. Marie, offered the traditional Iroquois thanksgiving address, spoken whenever the six nations gather together. The prayer thanked the Creator, the Earth, the sun, moon and stars and gave listeners the opportunity to remember the Onondagas who once lived on the shores where they now stood.
[A history lesson]
Saturday was also a time to learn about the past from Ste. Marie's volunteers. Paul Finocchio, an interpreter at the site, told of the journey from Quebec to the shores of the lake made by Jesuit priests and their interpreters.