Teresa (Burns) Nusbaum, M.S.


Education: Bachelor of Science in geography (natural resources and environmental sciences) (May 1998)

Master of Science in geography from Kansas State University

McNair Project: Impacts of the Proposed South Lawrence Trafficway on Haskell Indian Nations University (1997)

Mentor: David Kromm, Ph.D.

The Haskell-Baker Wetland area has been the setting of conflict for more than a century. It began in 1884 when Haskell Indian Nations University was founded as the "United States Industrial Training School" to assimilate Native American people into an agrarian society. Haskell has weathered confrontation through several generations and continues to be the site of conflict between cultures and within the community. This study assesses the spiritual, educational, and historical impact of a proposed trafficway on Haskell campus's wetland.

In 1985, city and county officials proposed a major highway to alleviate traffic congestion on 23rd street, a main east/west artery through the city of Lawrence, Kansas. Conflict emerged over the eastern portion of the trafficway, which would cross through the southern end of Haskell Indian Nations University and the Haskell-Baker Wetland. Concerns of spiritual, educational, and historical impact were voiced. The university requested that an alignment south of the Wakarusa River be developed, which would avoid the boundaries of their property and the wetland. Thirteen years later the issue remains unresolved.

From studies, 31st Street emerged as the preferred alignment, in part because this route decimates the smallest portion of wetland acreage, because a two-lane county road currently exists there, and because funding and permits have already been obtained. Although a good argument can be made for the 31st Street alignment, federal guidelines require that all possible impacts be considered, including those on people and their cultures. Although the effects of construction on the university and Native people would be extensive, disrupting the traditional role of the wetland embedded within Native culture, they have not been included in the evaluation.

The spiritual, educational, and historical uses of the wetland, although varied, are interconnected; the religion and culture of Native people have survived because they found refuge in special places such as this to practice their forbidden beliefs. Today, the wetland still fulfills this critical role in these people's lives. The Native American Church of North America recently held its quarterly conference and celebration in this wetland because of its sacredness within Native tradition. Furthermore, use of the Haskell-Baker Wetland complex enables instructors to integrate a diversity of disciplines, while at the same time allowing students to practice and experience their individual cultures through the development of discovery laboratories located within the wetland.

Native religion is inseparable from the land. According to David Wishart, Professor of Geography at University of Nebraska, "religion was the well spring of traditional Indian life; everything else from the structure of society to the performance of everyday tasks flowed from that source . . . they believed that everything in the creation was connected, a web of life reaching from the individual through the family and band and out into nature." For many Native Americans across the United States, the Haskell-Baker wetland area is critical to the continuance of their spiritual, educational, and traditional lives. The extensive impact of trafficway is beyond mitigation. Construction would not be a mere inconvenice, but would require drastic adjustments in the spiritual and educational practices of Native Americans, and would result in the loss of a significant aspect of their history and culture. As a result of these impacts, the preferred alignment is unacceptable. The new trafficway should be routed well to the south.