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The Mekong River winds through six countries, across 2,700 miles (about 4,350 kilometers) from the mountains to the sea. Image via Unsplash by Parker Hilton.

Introduction to Issue 25 | Rivers & Borders

On a map, the defined line of a river makes a compelling case for becoming a border. The line crisply delineates one space from another, dividing lands and creating distinctions between peoples, cultures, economies, and more. Certainly, these bodies of water have been adopted as borders with some frequency. A recent study published in Water Policy determined that rivers currently make up 23 percent of international borders, not to mention creating borders at provincial, state, and local levels as well (Popelka and Smith 2020).

Reeds and shoreline. Photo by Renzo D'souza on Unsplash.

Introduction to Issue 24 | Layers

The cover image for this issue is a meditation on layers. In its two-dimensional form, it reveals dark but reflective water, distinct aquatic vegetation, an autumnal shoreline, and powerlines stretching across the deepening blue in the sky. The image reveals the layers of the visible place (the water, plants, and sky), but also evokes the layers that are invisible…

Roxanne Biidabinokwe Gould is preparing some smoked fish at the water and ground breaking ceremony conducted by the Indigenous Women's Water Sisterhood and the City of Duluth. The ceremony was held for an outdoor classroom on the Waabizheshikana Trail on the St. Louis River. Image courtesy of University of Minnesota Duluth.

Introduction to Issue 23 | Connections in Practice

When Open Rivers launched in fall 2015, we made a promise to try to include at least one Indigenous voice in each issue. Since then, many issues have featured multiple Indigenous voices, including many involved with the TRUTH Report. Now, with Issue 23, “Connections in Practice,” a majority of the authors—faculty, staff, and students—are enrolled members or descendants of Tribes and Nations from throughout North America. They represent a growing cohort of university faculty and other professionals who work in two worlds, creating networks, honoring their traditional ways of knowing and being, while also nudging their non-indigenous colleagues to expand their own worldviews…

Ann Raiho surveying the horizon. Image courtesy of Natalie Warren.

Introduction to Issue 21

We refer to the issue as “Women & Water: Calling” because collectively these articles demonstrate the ways that water calls to people, drawing women into connection and commitment to the material world and to each other.

Low clouds in Glen Forsa on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, UK. Image by Jill Dimond on Unsplash.

Introduction to Issue Twenty

Over two years ago, before the global pandemic upended our lives, Open Rivers started talking with Professor Mary Modeen, an artist, academic, and convener based at the University of Dundee in Scotland whose work, creativity, and generosity have created an international network of collaborators doing place-based work. For this issue of Open Rivers, Modeen stretches the journal toward international perspectives on the meaning of rivers. This collection of artwork and reflections, place-based engagements and community-driven actions demonstrates exactly that—the meaning of rivers to so many people in so many different places—through stunning exhibits and galleries, lyrical prose, and reflections on waters in place…

Fig 1: Detail. The River Ericht, Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland, 2020. Image courtesy of Mary Modeen.

Guest Editor’s Introduction to Issue Twenty: Rivers and Meaning

Firstly, a welcome to you readers, traditional style. Just because we are many, sitting in many places gathered in “internet land” does not mean that I cannot welcome you as a virtual visitor to my place and to what we may imagine as our campfire. Here, 200 meters from the banks, I share with you the River Ericht and speak to you with the sounds of water flowing across rocks and swirling in the currents.

I welcome you to the hills and forests, the local berry fields of Scotland, perched on the divide between the Lowlands and the Highlands and the farmlands growing potatoes, beans, brassicas, and barley. You too, in my imagination, have your places to share—your rivers and lakes, your coastal beaches and mountains. We are first and ever in the world by the time we come to know where we are. As we come together, what we share here are stories from places and people across the world showing and telling and singing songs that reveal more than one place, more than one story…

Santa Monica Pier by Omar Prestwich.

Introduction to Issue Nineteen

The articles for this issue started to come together in the midst of the global pandemic, as our usual practices were upended, our concerns reprioritized, our social lives reorganized and often curtailed, our lives—both private and public—in a tumult. Even now, as we’ve moved past the initial phases of crisis and more of us have moved back into shared workspaces and participated in social gatherings, many uncertainties remain. As I read the early drafts of these thoughtful articles, I found them pulling me into a space for reflection…

Introduction to Issue Eighteen

On local and global scales, concerns about our water systems emerge from many directions. We read stories of contaminants compromising hydrologies and water ecologies, of farm runoff in the Midwest creating an expansive hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. We view shocking images of the effects of a decades-long drought diminishing the flow of the Colorado River. Hazardous drinking water conditions and deteriorating infrastructures like those in Flint, Michigan inspire distrust in resource management methods and make evident how inequalities and injustices are part of everyday entanglements with water. The present conditions of water—and our relationships to it—provoke an endless set of questions about what our future with water may look like…

Prairie and spiderweb. Image courtesy of Jan Huber.

Introduction to Issue Seventeen

In recent years, the practice of land acknowledgements—making statements to acknowledge that white settlers to Turtle Island (what we now know as North America) are all on lands unethically, unconscionably, taken from Indigenous peoples who lived and thrived here long before settlers—has become common.