No. 2: A River Connected: stories about river, race, home, and climate

12 Noon, Thursday, February 17, 2022

All communities, every state

Gathering and Welcome

Introduction: Who are you, where are you, and what is the river to you?

River—Race: Terry Larson

“First man of the river” who makes his home right at the Headwaters in Minnesota, Terry is deeply connected to the water and the land through its ancestral narrative.

Q&A: How does the river shape your sense of home?

Race—Home: Paul Dressen

An adopted member of the Prairie Island Indian Community who taught us the story of the Dakota people bringing back the buffalo, Paul shares the creator’s vision for this new herd.

Q&A: What role does race and heritage play in your community?

Home—Climate: Roger Krieger

 A “small” farmer in Burlington, Iowa, Roger is doing his part to treat the land and water right—not “farming the death out of” the land.

Q&A: What is your sense of responsibility for our environment’s future?

Down in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana where that water frome very direction is impacting the wetlands and the dry land, Richie is planting trees and policy to protect his community

Q&A: Why do we make our homes in threatened environments?

click here to watch video

Despite some technical difficulties—which I will resolve before next month—I think webisode No. 2 went off quite well…

Mostly because of the great participation of people like Dave Eischeid, Kathy Jolly Vance, and Margaret Berrisford. I hope those of you who were unable to make the noon meetup will tune into the recording here and let us know your thoughts. We are really hoping for a dialogue, a continued sharing of voices. While our journey down the river seems so long ago now, the stories still resonate and have the ability to bring new stories to light as we journey into this day, and the next.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the time lost between now and November 5, 2019 when we landed at the mouth of the Mississippi River. By this point now in 2022, I thought for sure I would have written a book or created a major dance project related to all the material we gathered. Needless to say, there’s been a delay in the process. The whole world has been in a time warp to some extent with the pandemic, and to be sure, that’s part of it. But also, I suffer from depression, bipolar depression, and I forgot to account for the slump that would come after a major upswing in activity in creative practice like the creation and execution of the Relay.

I’m sharing this now because after attending a seminar last week about dispelling stigma around mental health issues, I feel I need to share my story as much as others have shared theirs. We all have mental health—sometimes our health is good, sometimes not so good. Some of us deal with mental health issues in a serious way, others more casually, but regardless, we should be able to talk about it and care for each other with the same concern as any kind of illness or pain we might be going through.

This reminds me of meeting with Michael Bischoff in Minneapolis on day 22 of our journey. Michael was the architect of a unique story map of the river throughout the Twin Cities region and throughout his suffering with brain cancer had truly dedicated his life to the river. He told me about a talk he attended at the White Earth Reservation where a woman said “if you’re a well-meaning liberal like person, …find a place, fall in love, and commit to it”—which Michael took kind of seriously in his life and his work. He investigated his own special spot along the gorge and opened the door to the stories of others and their locations along the river. However he also understood, “it’s the one particular spot and it’s everywhere too,” as he remarked on the translation of the word Mississippi from the Ojibwe—grandfather of all waters. “And so it’s everywhere. It’s not just this one spot.”

This all seems very relevant considering the stress and anxiety and oftentimes real pain we are experiencing during the times we are in. We may feel this in our one spot, but it is everywhere. I hope that like for myself, you have also found listening to the voices of the river, the communities that give so generously, and just being connected to the river itself like a panacea for mental and physical health. I so greatly appreciate all of you for the time and energy you share with me and this project. I hope I can give back some of this well being.

It’s good to be connecting again, building again, and finding a way to create not just one “grand finale” but a continuous flow into the future where these stories will keep being told.