Brief Bio: Melissa Otis

Melissa Otis

Birthplace: Elizabethtown.

Residence: Westport.

Occupation: Historian and educator. She also substitute- teaches at local schools. Recently joined the board of the Adirondack History Museum.

Accomplishments: “Raising my wonderful daughter Sarah. Second is obtaining my Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. My dissertation topic was the history of Native peoples in the Adirondacks. I have turned that work into a book that will be published by Syracuse University Press, hopefully this fall. My new research project looks at the history of Native peoples from the Northeast who moved to New York City to become performers between 1870 and 1940. I focus on these peoples’ history during the nineteenth century to the present.”

Favorite hike: “Just walking through nearby woods. I am not a big hiker. “

Favorite view: “The High Peaks from the top of Spruce Hill.”

Why I live in the Adirondacks: “I was born and raised here, and my family has been in the region since the 1840s. I had to leave for a while to make a living, but the Adirondacks have always been home. The beauty of the Adirondacks combined with my ties to family and lifelong friends is why I live in the Adirondacks.”

Memorable wildlife experience: “I enjoy raptor sightings, but I am hoping to see a moose—that would be the ultimate wildlife experience for me.”

If I were in charge of the Park: “There would be a university within the Park that focuses on Adirondack scholarship. Its focus would be on the region, and scholars would partner with communities to solve the area’s complex issues. We are the size of, or larger than, six states, yet we have no university. An example of a major question to tackle is: how does the region recruit good-paying, year-round work that does not harm the environment? In the past the environment suffered; today the current situation works against the local people. We need cross-discipline and focused minds to find ways to bring this balance between the environment and the people who live here into equilibrium. A university could help with this and other issues.”

About Adirondack Explorer

The Adirondack Explorer is a nonprofit magazine covering the Adirondack Park's environment, recreation and communities.

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