Indian trails, military roads, and waterwheels: Cultural and ecological transformations at Glen Lake, New York

Paul Edward Derby, Syracuse University


This is a study of a small community in upstate New York now known as Glen Lake. It is a diachronic study of how changing human populations, informed by their cultural worldviews, interacted with the natural environment. The timeframe spans the history of human habitation from the first Native Americans at the lake, to their displacement through colonial conquest, to their replacement by American settlers, to the struggles of current lake residents to protect the lake from further environmental degradation caused by human actions. The major focus is the radical transformation of cultures from Native American to Euro-American and the effects of this cultural transformation on the ecology of Glen Lake. It is argued that Northeast Native American lifeways and worldview, prior to interference by Europeans, established an ecological reciprocity with the natural environment which sustained a healthy human-earth relationship. In contrast, an imported "Old World" worldview, which still informs normative American culture today, legitimized human activities that have had long-term negative effects upon the natural environment. This work also has wider implications as a comparative study of ecological anthropology and to open a dialogue of the necessity for a new cultural worldview - global sustainability.