University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

More than the Mississippi: the river as ‘here’, with Jim Rock and Sharon Day. April 8, 2015

More than the Mississippi: the river as ‘here’

Wednesday, April 8, 2015, at 7:00pm
Best Buy Theater, Northrop

Featured speakers: Jim Rock and Sharon Day.

Download: audio, small video, or original.

The Mississippi is a river burdened by its history. The shadows cast by the writings of Mark Twain and celebratory accounts of westward movement obscure many of the narratives and images that have not been part of the predominant American story. These stories and images are nevertheless vital to our ongoing understanding the place of the river in cultural, spiritual, and social topographies. Jim Rock, a noted Dakota scientist and educator whose family is deeply rooted in this place, and Sharon Day, an Anishinaabe elder known for her “water walks,” will share some additional understandings of the Mississippi in time and space, and of ourselves as beings on the earth with a long history. Their presentation challenges us to consider our relationship to the river in both metaphysical and environmental terms, and urges us to act as ethical stewards of this place in the future.

Jim Rock is a Dakota scholar and educator specializing in ethnoastronomy. He has served as a consultant with NASA and NOAA and is incoming Program Director at the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Sharon Day is executive director of the Indigenous People’s Task Force. In spring 2013 she led a group of Ojibwe women on a two-month walk from the headwaters to the mouth of the Mississippi River to raise awareness about the water’s diminishing quality.

Note: Rock observes that while the human heart pumps around 19,000 horns of blood daily, 54 million horns by age 8, and 405 million by age 59, when measured by the 405 milliliters of water held in his buffalo horn, the bison on turtle island were reduced from around 60 million to only a few hundred by the late 1870s. He adds that the bison have returned to fewer than a half million “but when the prairie and wetlands heal and they can have free range our Mother will also reflect this Healing Place”.

This event is the beginning of the Sawyer Symposium, “The Once and Future River: Imagining the Mississippi in an Era of Climate Change”. The symposium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the University of Minnesota for the John E. Sawyer Seminar, “Making the Mississippi: Creating New Water Narratives for the 21st Century.” Day has been interviewed by the Bat of Minerva.


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  1. Alyssa WhitingSeptember 27, 2016 at 8:32 amReply

    I am very inspired by this article and the intentional actions you have offered in regards to water, Minnesota, legacy and future thinking. How can I help in creating new water narratives for the 21st century?

    • Aaron Victorin-VangerudSeptember 27, 2016 at 11:46 amReplyAuthor

      Hi Alyssa,
      The person you’d want to get in touch with is Pat Nunnally, coordinator of the River Life Program, which was instrumental in putting on the symposium this event kicked off.

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