Finding Wisdom in Places
The Mississippi River Network held its annual meeting in Minneapolis this week and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new acquaintances from throughout the great length of the Mississippi River. The MRN’s campaign, 1Mississippi, is a great idea and highly successful, as I have written about before. Anyone who has traveled much on the river knows, though, that there is not one Mississippi, but many; how many there are kind of depends on what lens you are using to look at the river.
This was perhaps never more evident than Thursday morning when about 20 meeting attendees got in canoes and paddled around Pike Island, or wita tanka in the Dakota language, at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. For water quality policy folks, this may be “Ground Zero” in the fight to reduce the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Organizations involved with recreational development marveled at this expanse of natural area preserved in the heart of the metropolitan region. People who look at the river in terms of habitat, especially birding, recognize that this is a central part of an Audubon-designated Important Birding Area, part of the Mississippi Flyway. True to our hopes, we saw six bald eagles, two great blue herons, an osprey and a couple of hawks. Plus countless LGBs (little grey birds).
I think our time at the Confluence affected the rest of our discussions, giving depth and resonance to our remaining meetings. It is the experience of place, slow absorption of the many ways the landscape and waters of a particular spot on the globe, that motivates so many of us to spend our careers working for the health of something like the Mississippi River. That place experience comes through may forms, and responds to (and stimulates) many facets of our experience. Sometimes we learn through scientific knowledge; sometimes awareness of policy disputes moves us to act.
Always, though, we respond to the stories of place. This podcast, created by Mona Smith of Allies:media/art, gives us multiple Dakota voices responding to a place with great spiritual and cultural significance. As a speaker says “We are still here today. We will always be here. This is our homeland.”
Voices to acknowledge and heed. A sense of where you are. Necessary to know in order to act in the right way, the right spirit.