Chemung River Friends ...Friends of the Chemung River Watershed in Finger Lakes Region of NY


Experience 500 Years of Native American history August 3

The public is invited to learn about and discuss 500 years of Native American history, from the indigenous peoples’ point of view, during a unique event at the Community Park in Big Flats from 1 to 4 p.m. on Aug 3.

The WITNESS TO INJUSTICE/THE KAIROs Blanket Exercise is an interactive Native American history lesson that takes place on a large circle of blankets beneath the shade of a pine grove. Six trained Native American and non-native facilitators lead the program, which uses the participants to tell the history of indigenous people and European settlers in North and South America for the last five centuries.

The exercise is co-sponsored by Chemung River Friends and the Chemung Valley History Museum, both in Elmira. The participation fee is $10 and only 40 tickets will be sold. Register and buy a ticket by going to

The three-hour event invites participants to remove their shoes and stand on the blankets, which represent North America before the indigenous people had contact with Europeans. Trained facilitators lead the participants in playing various roles to tell the history.

As the narrator talks about significant events of the indigenous people -- loss of land, life and culture -- the blankets are gradually folded and removed, providing as stark visual illustration of how colonialism affects indigenous people.

As the blankets are folded and removed, the participants are asked to sit in chairs surrounding the circle and quietly watch and learn from the rest of the program.

The program ends with a “talking circle” giving participants time to ask questions, share their thoughts and feelings about the experience, and how they can share the knowledge they learned. The event leaves some participants tearful as they hear about how indigenous people were mistreated and how their lives and cultures were impacted.

“I attended a blanket exercise in Syracuse, and it changed my knowledge and views about Native American history – especially the ‘cowboys and Indians’ falsehoods and misconceptions I learned growing up,” said Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “Hearing the indigenous people’s side of the story is so important, and it hits home to see the participants leave the blankets in groups as the blanket circle continually grows smaller.”

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise was created in Canada in 1996 to promote awareness of the complete history of indigenous people and the effect European contact has had them. The program has conducted tens of thousands of events around the world.

Chemung River Friends and the Chemung Valley History Museum promote indigenous education events because the Twin Tiers and New York are rich in Native American history and the rivers were among the first places where villages were built.  “Our rivers overflow with history and the foundations of early civilization, settlement and life along these waterways,” Pfiffer said.

Participants in the Aug. 3 event are asked to bring blankets and lawn chairs. No cameras or cell phones are allowed. The Community Park is located at the intersection of State Route 352 and Winters Road in Big Flats. The program is appropriate for ages 15 and older and sponsored, in part, with a grant from the Community Foundation of Elmira, Corning and the Finger Lakes.

For more information contact Jim Pfiffer at or 607-846-2242 or log onto the KAIROS website at

2019 River Friends public eco-recreation and cleanup events

  Public education and outreach events in 2019: 

2019 monthly Finger Lake House River Friends environmental education programs

Beer, porcupines, rattlesnakes and rain barrels at Finger Lakes House in 2019



You can see a live rattlesnake, a stuffed porcupine and a painted rain barrel while sipping tasty craft beers at this year’s monthly nature programs sponsored by Chemung River Friends and the Finger Lakes House in Elmira.


The monthly programs will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at 389 W. Water St. and are $15 at the door. No reservations are required. They include one free New York State craft beer or wine, snack foods and a chance to win a door prize. The fees helps River Friends continue to offer educational programs. The series takes holiday breaks in July and December.


“The Finger Lakes House is honored to support River Friends in their continuing education series,” said Bill Mott, co-owner of the Finger Lakes House. “The Chemung River is a valuable community resource that provides us with not only water, but beauty and recreation. Through River Friends’ efforts and our community support, we will ensure the Chemung River will be beautiful for many generations.”


One of the highlights of the series is the May 20 program on timber rattlesnakes that will feature a live rattlesnake demonstration by a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife technician.  


“We want to correct the misconceptions and fears many people have about our amazing wildlife like rattlesnakes,” Pfiffer said. “We want the public to better understand and appreciate our wildlife, and do it in a fun venue with good beverages, food and like-minded friends. You support River Friends, a local business and the river. Not bad for $15.”


August 12:  We’re Not Playing Opossum or is it Possum?

The oft-maligned marsupial has an image problem. Love ‘em or not, the opossum is often perceived as a giant, dirty, scavenging rat, rather than a cute creature of the wild. North America’s only marsupial has unique characteristics that might transform your aversion into affection. They’re smart, have a remarkable ability to find food and they kill cockroaches and rats. When threatened, opossums run, growl, belch, urinate and defecate. And when all else fails, they “play ‘possum" and act as if they are dead. It is an involuntary response (like fainting) rather than a conscious act. 

There will be a PowerPoint presentation by Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer.

Door prize: To be determined.


September 23: Leave it Beavers

Discover how and why beavers love to build dams and gnaw trees, car tires and axe handles. Learn about the value of beaver pelts in American history. Learn why beaver teeth have to gnaw and how they can cut down trees. Includes a large stuffed beaver.

PowerPoint presentations by Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer.

Door prize: A hand-made hiking stick made from a riverside sapling.


October 21:  How Rivers Improve our Lives and Communities

Rivers drain nearly 75 percent of the Earth’s land surface and carry water and nutrients around the earth. They play a vital part in the water cycle, acting as drainage channels for surface water. Learn why our lives depend on rivers and how they improve our economy, environment, community health and quality of life.

You will leave this presentation with more respect and a better understanding of how communities and civilizations originated and grew around waterways.

There will be a PowerPoint presentation by Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer

Door prize:  A 22-inch-square cotton bandana map of the Chemung River.


November 18: Where do All the Animals Go During Winter?

Aside from people, the creatures that occupy two-thirds of our nation’s land mass have just three choices when it comes to surviving the winter cold: resist, migrate or hibernate. Discover which animals stick it out, which ones go south and which ones hit the sack? The program will answer those questions and leave you amazed as you discover the adaptations and tools that animals use to stay warm, fed and asleep during the winter.

There will be a PowerPoint presentation by Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer.

Door prize: To be determined.


December: No program


For more information:

 Guided Nature Stroller Walks

These short and easy walks are designed to introduce parents, grandparents and toddlers to area trails, parks, ponds, rivers, and streams where the public can hike and enjoy outdoor recreation and nature's beauty. Each walk includes an educational theme and snacks and water. 

Please dress for the weather-walks are cancelled only for thunder/lightning! 

The free walks are sponsored by the Chemung Valley Audubon Society. for more details about these walks, including directions to each site, please visit

    Guided paddle trips and hikes

Southern Tier Kayak Tours - done for the season.

Southern Tier Kayak Tours (STKT) provides kayaks, equipment and bus  transportation for most of our guided river paddles. During the 2-to-3-hour trips you will be joined by 15 to 20 paddlers of all abilities and experiences. We paddle on water that is relatively safe -- with ripples, not rapids. The experienced guides and r paddlers make the trips safe and fun (squirt guns are included).

FEE: River Friends pays $25 of the $50/paddler fee charged by STKT. You may bring your own canoe or kayak for a reduced fee. Contact STKT for more info and to register for the guided paddles: 607-220-3642 or

These tours are done for the season.  Check back next spring for another series!

 River, stream and trail cleanups

   More cleanups: Will be announced in 2019.

Upper Susquehanna Coalition

Welcome Partners River Trail Launch Sites Recreation Events Groups & Projects Susquehanna Watershed Paddling Guide

Chemung River Friends 111 N. Main St., Elmira, N.Y. 14901 (607) 846-2242 Facebook

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