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RIVER LIFE

Changing River + Changing Communities: Need for New Narratives

Towboat at SunsetWhen we put a public program together, we have a clear, but complex, goal:  we want the audience to walk away saying “That’s a really interesting idea.  I’ll have to think about that some more.”  Maybe it’s the teacher in us, or the fact that unlike our community partners our mandate is not to manage river resources or programs.  Instead our mandate is to encourage new ideas that help our partners do their jobs.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because we are two weeks away from the symposium “The Once and Future River,” where some two dozen speakers will incite new thinking on a range of topics related to the Mississippi River.  We’ll ask questions such as:  What do we mean when we talk about the “Mississippi River”? How do we express new ideas?  What do we mean by “resilience” as that term might be applied to the river and its communities?

Hard questions, requiring more thought than we are perhaps used to.  But then, as I said, that’s our job.  For example, we held a program last spring “The Irony of Carp” that really exemplifies what we’re about.

Invasive carp are a threat to current conditions on the Upper Mississippi, of that there is no doubt.  We are glad that many organizations and coalitions are working to stop the spread of these pests.  But what, ultimately, do we mean by “invasive,” and exactly how did these fish get here in the first place?  If we are stopping them to protect a “natural” ecological system, well, how “natural” is that system really?

Last spring’s program ranged across a number of fundamental questions about invasive carp and our responses to them.  Among the insights:

  • We are spending millions of dollars to keep these species out of the Great Lakes because we are afraid they will harm species of “game fish,” which themselves are introduced species.
  • In social media such as You Tube, the language that is used to describe the “stop carp” efforts sounds an awful lot like the xenophobic language people use who are worried about “illegal immigrants.”
  • In another century, which is the blink of an eye from the perspective of the indigenous people here (and who have their own ideas about the ironies of whites getting alarmed about “invasive species,”) the currently invasive carp may well be seen as “native” to the ecosystem.

Watch the videos at the link above; they are sure to inform and to provoke thought.  And be sure to register for the symposium in two weeks: it also is sure to both inform and to provoke thought.

After all, are any of us comfortable saying that we know enough?

Living with the Mississippi: Who owns the river?

Living with the Mississippi is a blog series that examines the history of the river flats communities and what it means to almost literally live on the Mississippi River. Follow along to learn more about life on the Mississippi prior to luxury condos and clean river water, before the riverfront was considered a desirable place to live.

The status of the Mississippi Riverfront has constantly changed over time. Though today, the riverfront contains some of the area’s most upscale housing, during the early 1900s, these areas were undesirable, home to some of the poorest communities in the Twin Cities. A 1917 report by Dr. Carol Aronovici, Director of Social Service for the Wilder Foundation describes the West Side Flats, Swede Hollow, and the Upper Levee as some of the worst housing conditions in St. Paul and makes a few recommendations for their use, were the housing to be demolished and the residents relocated: “Phalen Creek and the banks of this stream are ideal for park purposes, while in their present state they constitute a menace to the health of the residents and to the community at large.” “The ‘Flats’ if properly treated would afford a splendid opportunity for the development of an industrial zone accessible to rail and river transportation instead of being what they are today, a slum of the worst character.”[i]

Barge at Municipal River Terminal, Minneapolis. Taken by Norton & Peel in 1958. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Barge at Municipal River Terminal, Minneapolis. Taken by Norton & Peel in 1958. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Though it took a few decades, Aronovici’s visions eventually came true. Swede Hollow became a public park in the 1970s, while the West Side Flats and the Upper Levee were used for industrial purposes beginning in the 1960s. The latter two communities, victims of intense flooding, poor housing conditions, and the city’s growing interest in urban planning, were dispersed throughout St. Paul. Today, however, the industry at the riverfront has shrunk; the Upper Levee is home to the “Riverview at Upper Landing” apartment complex, while plans to give the West Side Flats a residential facelift are underway. When the residents of the West Side Flats (link West Side Flats post here) were removed in 1962 by the St. Paul Port Authority and the Housing and Relocation Authority, the community, informed that they would have public housing options, assumed the public housing would be built on the flats, allowing the settlement to remain intact. To their dismay, public housing was never constructed on the Lower West Side, though there was plenty of room to do so.[ii]

“View of Mississippi River showing coal barges at Municipal River Terminal, Minneapolis.” Photographer unknown, taken in approximately 1940. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

“View of Mississippi River showing coal barges at Municipal River Terminal, Minneapolis.” Photographer unknown, taken in approximately 1940. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Now, after over 50 years, housing will be built on the West Side Flats, with the quality of living improved immensely through plans for parks, a raised floodplain, and new facilities. Because the industrial riverfront is no longer lucrative, a residential riverfront will take its place. It begs the question, who owns the river? How will the river continue to be repurposed over time to take advantage of the changing economy? The residents at the Bohemian Flats, in Minneapolis, believed they owned their land; though they did not hold the lease to the land, they maintained that it was wrong to charge rent for land on a river flat because it was claimed by the rising water each year.[iii] They were evicted to make room for a Municipal Barge Terminal which would allow for river trade routes. How long will the apartment complexes at the Upper Levee and the West Side Flats remain in place before another use takes precedence?

Riverview at Upper Landing Apartments. Courtesy of their website, http://www.riverviewatupperlanding.com/

Riverview at Upper Landing Apartments. Courtesy of their website, http://www.riverviewatupperlanding.com/

 Further Reading:

Footnotes:

[i] Aronovici, Carol. Housing Conditions in the City of St. Paul: Report Presented to the Housing Commission of the St. Paul Association. Amherst H. Wilder Charity, 1917.
[ii] Old West Side Improvement Association Files, 1960-1961. Neighborhood House Association Records. Minnesota Historical Society.
[iii] “River Flat Squatters Lose Battle to Keep Rent Free Homes.” Minneapolis Journal 14 November 1923.

“Where is Nature Now?” a Provocative Question for Upcoming Minnesota Symposium

Our spring season of innovative, thought-provoking programming continues April 17-18 with a symposium “Nature 3.x: Where is Nature Now?”  The program will be on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; further details, symposium participants, and registration are here.

The question “where is nature now” has many potential answers.  Some might say “in parks and protected areas,” while others, more attuned to innovations in conservation biology and urban ecology, might say “everywhere.”  The symposium will explore some possible responses to the latter claim.  If “nature” is “everywhere,” even in our most damaged lands and toxic waters, how does that change our sense of the meaning of “nature”?  What, then, do we do as planners and designers committed to bringing the values of “nature” to city dwellers, for example.

Take a look at the program–the speakers are innovative thinkers and practitioners who are known throughout the world.  Some of them have undertaken potentially transformative projects here in this region.  Attending this program will be time well spent, if you are invested in the future of our systems here.

Minnesota Has a Water Problem

Actually, we have (at least) two, both of which have been receiving a lot of media attention lately.  Not surprisingly, both are to one degree or another being framed as questions about how much regulation is “too much,” or, to put it another way, where the line between “public” and “private” spheres lies.

The first case is one where the MN legislature is trying to exert greater influence over how environmental regulations, particularly water rules, are administered.  As this article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, a number of specific players are interested in less-burdensome clean water restrictions.  I’m sorry, but I have to wonder when was the last time someone complained about water being “too clean.”

The other case being discussed now is perhaps more interesting.  Agriculture has long been a “third rail” in Minnesota politics, shunned by politicians on the left and right who don’t want to be accused of getting in the way of the “family farmer” who “feeds the world” (but whose corn crop more likely feeds cattle, ethanol plants, or high fructose corn syrup).  It seems that most farmers in the state are not providing the 50 foot buffer between crop land and waterways that state law requires.  Last week, the governor officially called for standardizing Minnesota’s buffer strip rules as a means of protecting water quality across the state.

The pushback was, of course, swift and strong.  The proposal has been described as “aggressive” by agricultural commodity groups, whereas sportsmen have joined with clean water advocates in support of the plan.  It turns out that buffer strips often make up ideal habitat for an array of bird and animal species.

The legislature is just now getting down to serious business, so there’s no telling where this question will end up.  But one overlooked silver lining to the political disputes is that Minnesotans are talking, and talking seriously, about water.  For too long, we have thought we had enough water that was clean enough to do whatever we wanted, when, and wherever we want to.  After all, we’re not California, right?

Water problems come in many shapes and sizes, as we know.  Left untended, they become water crises.  News articles about water disputes are having an impact in terms of raising “water literacy” levels for all; just witness this really informative Q&A about agriculture and buffer strips, and the diagram of how buffer strips work.

Those two should be required reading at high schools and colleges across the state.  As Governor Dayton said several weeks ago “The land may be yours, but the water belongs to all of us.”

 

Panel to Explore Connections between Mississippi River, African-American History and Culture

Several months ago, I wrote about the growing awareness that much of contemporary environmental advocacy does not address issues important to African-Americans, Latinos, and other groups that fall outside the movement’s historical center in the white middle and upper classes. My earlier post suggested some Twitter and blog accounts to follow, and left room for additional reading and analysis on this issue.

I’m pleased to report that the University of Minnesota is beginning to address this gap, starting with a panel discussion “Backwater Blues: Environmental Disaster and African American Experiences.” The discussion will be held on March 31, at 4:00.  The location is Room 1210 Heller Hall, on the University’s West Bank campus.

The origination point for the discussion is a book by University of Houston professor Richard Mizelle that examines the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and its impacts on African-American culture.  Tens of thousands, if not more, people were displaced, some never to return to their homes.  The exodus north contributed to the spread of musical genres such as jazz and blues outside their “cultural hearth” in the lower Delta.  The flood and its aftermath shed a distinctive look into broader patterns and institutions of African American life in the early 20th century.

An interdisciplinary panel of scholars from the University of Minnesota will explore the book and its findings, as well as broader questions about the importance of environmental issues broadly construed in understanding the histories of African Americans.  It should be a lively, important discussion–save the date, get off work early, and join in!

The Boondoggle You Don’t Know About

That’s my personal editorial opinion about the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Project, a multi-billion dollar engineering monstrosity that will consume large amounts of farmland, disrupt sections of counties in two states, all to reduce (eliminate?) flooding of the Red River at Fargo ND.  This thing has been batted back and forth between the states forever, with Minnesota reluctant for a long time to come up with its share of the required cost-share.

I’m sorry, but my understanding is that the Red is going to flood, repeatedly.  The land is practically flat, and, temperatures being what they usually are, the headwaters thaw in winter before the mouth of the river at Hudson Bay does.  This means that liquid water is always flowing toward not-yet-liquid water, e.g. a “natural” ice dam every year.  Add a changing climate, and it seems reasonable to ask why we are doing this, and how are the costs and benefits really being measured.

But enough about my opinion.  The monthly Sip of Science talk next Wednesday will feature two engineers involved in designing the project.  Join them and learn the facts about how the project will actually work.


 

A SIP OF SCIENCE
The Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Project
Miguel Wong, Barr Engineering and Chris Ellis, St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015  5:30p.m.  
Aster Cafe125 SE Main Street, St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis
No cover, Please RSVP!

A SIP OF SCIENCE bridges the gap between science and culture in a setting that bridges the gap between brain and belly.  Food, beer, and learning are on the menu in a happy hour forum that puts science in context through storytelling.

March 11th Event –

For decades the cities of Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, have been plagued by flooding from the Red River of the North and its tributaries.  As part of a team of consultants hired by the two cities, Barr worked with the USACE St. Paul District to develop and compare solutions to the problem—and provide relief to an area that, in the past 16 years, has experienced six of the 10 largest flood events since 1897. Expedited after the flood of record in 2009, the fast-track feasibility study for this large and complex undertaking was completed in just three years, and the project is now in final design. The ultimate goal of the project is construction of a 36-mile-long diversion channel to direct floodwater around the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area. This presentation will highlight work on two unique project features: the Maple aqueduct and spillway structures, and the artificially constructed meandering low flow channel.

The talk takes place during happy hour at the Aster Cafe || Food and Drink Available for Purchase

ABOUT THIS MONTH’S SPEAKERS

Born and raised in Peru, Miguel Wong obtained his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering there. He earned his master’s in hydraulic engineering from the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, and his PhD from the University of Minnesota. His doctoral work at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory yielded a proposed modification to a well-established bedload-transport equation that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers subsequently incorporated into its HEC-RAS modeling software. Miguel, who now has more than 20 years of experience, has acquired the last nine as a senior water resources engineer at Barr Engineering Co., consulting on hydrologic modeling, hydraulic design, river-mechanics analysis, and water management.

Chris Ellis is a Senior Research Associate at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. With over 30 years of experience, Chris is engaged in fundamental and applied water and wind related research. He is one of the Lab’s primary resources for experimental and measurement design and implementation including scientific/engineering systems design, facility design and fabrication, and high speed automated data acquisition and analysis.

ABOUT A SIP OF SCIENCE

A SIP OF SCIENCE is a science happy hour sponsored by the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED). It is a chance to hear about new and exciting research over beer, in a cool bar.  Come talk with the experts about their efforts to address some of the Earth’s most pressing problems. NCED’s A SIP OF SCIENCE brings the wonder of science to happy hour.

Get more information at: http://www.nced.umn.edu/content/sip-of-science

Living with the Mississippi: The West Side Flats

Living with the Mississippi is a blog series that examines the history of the river flats communities and what it means to almost literally live on the Mississippi River. Follow along to learn more about life on the Mississippi prior to luxury condos and clean river water, before the riverfront was considered a desirable place to live.

The West Side Flats in St. Paul has provided a home to a number of different communities. First occupied by the Mdwakanton Sioux, the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux opened land on the West Side to white settlement; many Native-Americans stayed and were joined first by French-Canadians and later by German and Irish settlers.[i] Then, abruptly, in 1882 a train arrived in St. Paul carrying over two hundred Russian Jewish refugees fleeing the persecution of Czar Alexander III. As Eastern European Jews continued to arrive, they permeated the flats, taking ownership of the community. Later, they would be joined by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants, and, beginning in the 1930s, started being replaced by Hispanic immigrants, mainly migrant workers from Mexico. The Lower West Side has been referred to as the Ellis Island of St. Paul, a stopping point for many new immigrants to the city.[ii] However, through these changes, one fixture remained constant: the presence of the Neighborhood House.

“Neighborhood house, Indiana Avenue and Robertson Street, St. Paul.” Photographer Unknown, taken in 1924. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

“Neighborhood house, Indiana Avenue and Robertson Street, St. Paul.” Photographer Unknown, taken in 1924. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

In 1893, the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society established an Industrial School to teach new skills and “American ways” to the Jewish refugees on the West Side Flats. By 1897, the school, now known as the Neighborhood House, began catering to adults as well, and it was quickly realized the needs of the community extended beyond the Jewish population. In 1903, it reorganized to become a non-sectarian center, providing a number of services to the residents of the West Side Flats, including Americanization and English classes.[iii]

“Dancing class, Neighborhood House, St. Paul.” Taken by Carl R. Ermisch in approximately 1920. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

“Dancing class, Neighborhood House, St. Paul.” Taken by Carl R. Ermisch in approximately 1920. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Scholar Lorraine Pierce, who wrote her Master’s Thesis on the history of the West Side’s Jewish community, noted that many of the clubs at the Neighborhood House were segregated by ethnic group, indicating that it might not have been the “melting pot” it was often described as, yet many Mexican-American residents remember a peaceful coexistence. In a 1975 Oral History, former West Side Flats resident Frank “Kiko” Rangel noted that “the West Side was like one big family. Everybody knew everyone and anything that happened everybody would know right away.” When asked if the different nationalities got along, he answered yes. “There wasn’t any sign of…discrimination, yes. None at all.”[iv]

In his 2010 Oral History for the Lideres Latinos project, community leader Gillbert de la O echoed Rangel’s sentiment, stating that “there didn’t seem to be any of that, well, discrimination. I’m black. I’m Chicano. I’m Jewish.. All that kind of stuff, it wasn’t happening back then, not on the West Side.” He went further to discuss the cultural exchanges between the Mexican and Jewish populations, stating that “Just being able to go to school with some of the Jewish kids and get involved with their culture was great, and they’d get involved with our culture.”[v] A look at the population maps confirms a lack of segregation between ethnic groups; other than a general cluster of Jewish Eastern European and Hispanic households along State and Robertson Streets, the West Side Flats is startlingly integrated. A 1940 Neighborhood House survey found as many as 30 nationalities represented by its patrons.[vi]

“West Side of St. Paul during flood.” Taken by the St. Paul Dispatch in 1952. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

“West Side of St. Paul during flood.” Taken by the St. Paul Dispatch in 1952. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

As rumors of an industrial park at the West Side Flats began to circulate, the Neighborhood House created the “Old West Side Improvement Association” to protect the interests of the community.[vii] As the Port Authority and the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority made moves to acquire the entire community for urban renewal projects, this group was vocal in ensuring the West Side Flats residents would have adequate aid during the relocation process and worked to establish more public housing projects, though their efforts were unsuccessful. At the Neighborhood House, residents were able to meet with representatives from these agencies to better understand their rights. Though assured by these representatives that urban renewal was in the best interest of the city, the West Side community resisted the change. Even former West Side residents joined the group, often still bound to the community by religious institutions or workplaces.[viii] When the remaining homes were demolished in 1962, the Neighborhood House followed members of the community onto the Upper West Side, where it continues to serve the needs of St. Paul’s newest residents.

Further Reading for those interested in the history of the West Side Flats:

Footnotes:

[i] Pierce, Lorraine E. St. Paul’s Lower West Side. Thesis (M.A): University of Minnesota, 1971.
[ii] Johnson, Hildegard Binder. “The Germans” in They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.
[iii] Rosenblum, Gene. The Lost Jewish Community of the West Side Flats. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
[iv] Moosbrugger, Grant A. “Mexican-American Oral History Project” Interview with Frank Rangel on August 4, 1975.
[v] Duarte, Lorena. “Lideres Latinos Oral History Project” Interview with Gilbert de la O on March 29, 2010.
[vi] Kimball, Joe. “For newcomers, a place to feel at home. For 100 years, Neighborhood House on St. Paul’s West Side has served as a beacon for immigrants from around the world.” Star Tribune 11 August 1997.
[vii] Pierce, Lorraine E. St. Paul’s Lower West Side. Thesis (M.A): University of Minnesota, 1971.
[viii] Old West Side Improvement Association Files, 1960-1961. Neighborhood House Association Records. Minnesota Historical Society.

Why Treaties Matter: It’s All About Relationships

Treaties, such as the series of documents between representatives of the United States government and people native to this continent, are fundamentally about establishing relationships between people.  This is probably why there are such particular laws spelling out how treaties are made, and is why it is so important that we all understand the histories of the treaties that the United States has signed with Indian people.

A traveling exhibition, Why Treaties Matter, has been touring Minnesota since last summer, with dates scheduled into summer 2016.  The exhibition and accompanying virtual exhibit and web site, are the result of a collaboration between the Minnesota Humanities Center, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment supported the project through a grant.

The exhibition opens at Century College West Campus on March 2 and runs through March 14.

The exhibition and web site are essential to understanding the nature of Minnesota’s land and water.  Voices of Indian people are heard describing the multifaceted considerations involved in understanding treaties as historical and legal documents.  The educators guide and classroom materials are rich and extensive.  Among the wealth of perspectives one message in particular is clear: tribal nations manage lands and waters; lands and waters managed by other public entities have in their history a relation that was established through a treaty.

Why do treaties matter?  Treaties matter to our understanding of our proper relationships to the Mississippi River, to this place more generally, and with each other.

Living with the Mississippi: Health and Housing on the River

Living with the Mississippi is a blog series that examines the history of the river flats communities and what it means to almost literally live on the Mississippi River. Follow along to learn more about life on the Mississippi prior to luxury condos and clean river water, before the riverfront was considered a desirable place to live.

In my post on Dr. Kilvington’s dumping ground I discussed the health risks specific to the Bohemian Flats, though most of the river flats communities faced similar challenges with health and poverty. Some of these risks were direct effects of the proximity to the river, while others stemmed from the basic nature of low-income neighborhoods. In 1917, Carol Aronovici, Director of Social Service for the Wilder Foundation, wrote a report about the housing conditions in St. Paul. This study, which focused on slum housing, consistently ranked Swede Hollow, the Upper Levee, and the West Side Flats as having some of the worst conditions in the entire city.

“Flooding in Bohemian Flats.” Taken by Karen Bayliss in June, 1929. Courtesy of the Hennepin County Library. (Note the trash lining the banks of the river.)

“Flooding in Bohemian Flats.” Taken by Karen Bayliss in June, 1929. Courtesy of the Hennepin County Library. (Note the trash lining the banks of the river.)

The districts were rated and compared for a number of attributes, including access to city water, sewers, and bathing facilities, presence of ash cans or garbage cans, degree of crowding, amount of light and ventilation, and extent of rubbish on lawn. The flats communities consistently ranked below average on these conditions, particularly the Upper Levee, which completely lacked bathing facilities, access to city water or a sewer, garbage cans, or ash cans.[i] Pictures of the West Side Flats and Swede Hollow appeared in the report; the former was called out for the dilapidated boarding houses lining State, Robertson, and Wabasha Streets, while Swede Hollow was noted for its sanitation issues, as the residents had constructed their outhouses above Phalen Creek to use the stream as their sewer.[ii]

“Swede Hollow, St. Paul.” Taken by Albert Charles Munson in 1910. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society. (Note the outhouses over the creek on the right side of the photo.)

“Swede Hollow, St. Paul.” Taken by Albert Charles Munson in 1910. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society. (Note the outhouses over the creek on the right side of the photo.)

Though the city of Minneapolis did not conduct an extensive survey like St. Paul, the Bohemian Flats was discussed in a 1915 examination of housing in Minneapolis. This report noted the limited supply of water at the flats, specifically citing a pump at the Bohemian Flats continued to provide water to much of the community though it had been condemned two years earlier.[iii] Contaminated water would have likely been a problem at many of the flats communities, as most of the residents received their water from pumps and springs. Spring floods would not only fill the homes with unsanitary silt and water, but also could have flooded these water sources, contaminating their water supply as well.

“Woman pumping water from pump on Bohemian Flats, Minneapolis.” Photographer Unknown, taken in approximately 1935. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

“Woman pumping water from pump on Bohemian Flats, Minneapolis.” Photographer Unknown, taken in approximately 1935. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

The lack of clean water, sewer systems, and garbage facilities, as well as the overcrowding of homes, provided the perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases, resulting in a number of outbreaks in these communities. The health and housing conditions at the river flats settlements provide a departure from the more common, nostalgic narratives, providing insight into the physical problems these immigrant communities were facing.

Further Reading:

Footnotes:

[i] Ibid.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.

“The Once and Future River”: a Discussion You Won’t Want to Miss

Towboat at SunsetHold the dates of April 8-10, 2015 for the symposium “The Once and Future River: Imagining the Mississippi in an Era of Climate Change,” to be held at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  A preliminary program is on the symposium web page, where updates and registration information will be posted in the coming weeks. Registration is encouraged, but optional.

The program begins Wednesday April 8 at 7:00 with a talk by Jim Rock, well-known Dakota scientist and educator.  Discussions continue all day Thursday and conclude Friday morning April 10.

We all know that there are many ways people make the Mississippi River part of their lives, whether through their work, as a subject of study, a place for recreation, or as that bit of nature we go to for healing and rejuvenation.  We rarely question what the Mississippi River really is, what it means (especially to people whose background is very different), or what its future will be.  Our imaginings of the Mississippi are often dormant, unquestioned, just “there,” like the river itself.

Climate change is changing the Mississippi, though, and, some think, changing the ways we ought to be thinking about it.  These are the conversations that will begin in April.  Sessions all feature speakers from academic disciplines as well as realms of practice not located in the academy.  We will hear from Dakota people, for whom the river has always been central to their concept of “home.”  We’ll see some innovative short films that are suggestive of the river’s future.  And we’ll have a chance to talk and learn with other passionate river people from across the region.

So–save those dates!

 

Contact Us!
Send us a note at rvrlife@umn.edu to make suggestions for other places we should look, media to track, and stories to tell!
River Life in Video
Come Along for a Water Walk with Kare11 and River Life, and see Gifts at Work: The Mississippi River by the University of Minnesota Foundation
Hold the Date! Mississippi River Symposium April 8-10
Come join us at our symposium “The Once and Future River: Imagining the Mississippi in an Era of Climate Change” taking place in Northrop in early April.

For up-to-date program information on the symposium, please visit http://ias.umn.edu/