River Talk

River Stories: Too-Often Unheard

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I think I first heard this idea about 15 years ago, from my friend and colleague John Anfinson.  Anfinson, then at the Corps of Engineers St. Paul District office and now the head of resource management for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, argued at a conference that we know a lot about the Mississippi River from the perspectives of science and policy.

But we don't know many stories of the river.  Subsequently, of course, we have learned, and told, many more stories, but the fact remains that most of these are variations on a couple of pretty common themes:  river as opportunity, river as freedom, river as natural antidote to industrial urbanism.

If we're going to live sustainably with rivers, we have to know more stories, from more people.  You've heard me comment before on the Bdote Memory Map, which tells a variety of stories by Dakota people about their varied relationships to the Mississippi in the Twin Cities, a place some refer to as "the place of our genesis and our genocide."  The Memory Map continues to grow richer; if you haven't visited recently, go take another look.

I recently learned of another story site, this one focusing on the Yadkin River, in North Carolina.  Yadkin River Story reveals, with excellent production values, by the way, stories of growing up with the river, its importance to communities of faith and to communities who have lived in the area for generations, as well as those who are newly arrived.  

Quiet reflections on a small river such as the Yadkin carry great importance as we try to learn how to live with the rivers that give us life.

1 Comment

Thanks for mentioning the Bdote Memory Map. Soon, the map will be usable on mobile devices, so folks can take the Dakota info and voices with them when visiting favorite traditionalspots in the metro area. I'm guessing it will be in a week, maybe two weeks. Again, pidamaya.

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.