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Creek Running North

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February 26, 2005

Red Jacket

My brother posts a photo of a statue around the corner from the old house in Buffalo, an homage to the Seneca chief-cum-orator Red Jacket. Or something between homage and grave marker: Red Jacket is buried beneath it.

I used to walk past the statue every day, my commute from home to school and back lengthened a bit by a mile-long detour through the Forest Lawn cemetery. As a teenager I contemplated the statue, felt as though I should derive some inspiration from the remains of this leader of the people that were there before mine.

Red Jacket's less-Anglified name, Scajaquada, adorns the creek running through the cemetery and the nearby park. A freeway parallelling the creek shares the name. Scajaquada Creek flows into the Niagara River and the west end of the Erie Canal, widened in places to form lakes. Of all the creeks on which I have lived, Scajaquada is the one I used the least. In the 1960s and '70s it was a fetid sump for industry and casual dumpers. There was wildness to be found there, but that wildness was of a particularly urban variety: carcasses of dogs and bad boys lurking to steal your bike. On one occasion my brother - I think it was my brother - found a dead pig rotting on the shores of Delaware Lake. In typical Buffalo blind spot fashion, this reeking sewer flowed past a world-class art museum and a regional history museum in grandiose Neo-Classical buildings. The closest thing Buffalo had to a tourist attraction, and it literally stunk.

The creek ran underground for much of its length, beneath the ghettos of east Buffalo and the squalid sprawling suburb of Cheektowaga. At the east end of the cemetery, the creek emerged from an enormous, cavernous culvert. I could not have hit the ceiling of the tunnel with a thrown rock. We ventured into the forbidden culvert as kids, walking back what seemed a quarter-mile until the tunnel forked right into a narrow, treacherous-looking hallway. Not far down that smaller tunnel, a side shaft carried the creek into a pipe. In the dwindling illumination of my purloined flashlight, the water looked deadly and fetid.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 26, 2005 08:13 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Scajaquada Creek: - Outfall No.: 053
Excerpt: This past Friday I walked over to Forest Lawn to explore the outfall where Scajaquada Creek emerges after travelling over 3 miles beneath Buffalo's east side. When I was a kid over 25 years ago I spent many hours wandering through the cemetery and afte...
Weblog: life in Buffalo...
Tracked: March 1, 2005 12:15 AM
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OT: just a quick blurb to tweak you for pimpin' my snark on pharyngula.

Actually, I just wrote that sentence to see what it would look like in print. This is not good English.

O, the humanity!

But yes: I, too, was amused to see that the supporters of the chimp insist we have not evolved. There's joke in there somewhere, if only I could tease it out...

Tbogg! Tbogg, help us!

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan at February 26, 2005 08:23 AM
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GMT is referring to a comment he made at Atrios' blog. He described a creationist invasion of Pharyngula and their subsequent rhetorical slaughter at the hands of the elítist scientifical elíte as like watching chickens being run over by a pickup truck, over and over again. I liked it and cut-n-pasted it at Phayngula for all to enjoy.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 26, 2005 08:51 AM
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Red Jacket's name was actually Segoyewatha. Scajaquada was a different guy.

I took that photo yesterday, lately I've been thinking a lot about the same things you mentioned here. Just last night I was reminiscing online with someone about what the creek and lake were like back then - the oil drums, green smelly sludge, etc. I even told them about the that skeleton I found curled up on a rock. The lakeshore used to be just an eroded muddy cliff, and after sliding down that I found the skeleton. I went back to Calasanctius to get someone to come and identify it for me - I'm pretty sure it was Ted Podson. He said it was a dog.

Actually the reason I headed over to Forest Lawn was to get photos of the drain.
They are here:

I have been planning on blogging something in the next day or so about the tunnel and its construction. I've been trying to recruit some Urban Exploration types to explore it further. I'm not knowledgable enough to head in there on my own - I'm scared of methane, etc.

I found a mention somewhere once of another creek in Buffalo, near Hertel Ave., that is now completely gone - totally swallowed up in the sewer system. Now I can't remember the name.

Posted by: Craig at February 26, 2005 01:40 PM
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Hmm. I always thought Scajaquada was a white-person mangling of Segoyewatha.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 26, 2005 02:11 PM
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It may be one of those "depends on who you talk to" things.

Posted by: Craig at February 26, 2005 03:48 PM
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Just found out the name of the "missing" creek in North Buffalo. It's Cornelius Creek. Totally gone now.

Posted by: Craig at February 26, 2005 04:56 PM
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Been doing some research for an upcoming blog post and found out that Scajaquada Creek was named after Philip Conjockety, a Seneca who lived nearby.

Posted by: Craig at February 27, 2005 10:08 PM
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