THROWBACK THURSDAYS: More than the Mississippi: The River as "Here"
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus sits on both banks of the Mississippi River, one of the world's great waterways. The river has sustained the land, plants, animals, and peoples who have lived on it for millennia, yet too often it remains a blue line on a map, or "just water," a minimizing of its power, necessesity, and history. In the spring of 2015, the Institute for Advanced Study, along with the River Life program, presented a symposium entitled "The Once and Future River: Imagining the Mississippi in an Era of Climate Change," which was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through a John E. Sawyer Seminar grant. The symposium included talks, group discussions, and activities inncluding "water walks" (see below). One of the key presentations, "More than the Mississippi: The River as "Here"," a presentation by Jim Rock and Sharon Day. (To learn more about this symposium, check out Issue Two of the Open Rivers journal, which includes work from many of the symposium participants.)
From the event description:
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.
In this discussion, 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”.