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Endless hours writing and analyzing samples in the lab was not the most difficult part of graduate school, however. It was walking into a class and seeing that, yet again, no one else looks like me. It was walking into a room and knowing I must fight twice as hard to disprove any underlying biases people might have of me. It was when comments were made that weren’t necessarily targeted at me, but that impacted me because I was the only black woman in the room, lecture hall, or meeting.
The first time someone suggested that I write a weekly newspaper column about water, I smiled, nodded, and mentally filed the suggestion away in the corner of my mind where I store mindless chatter and bad ideas. How much could there possibly be to say about water, and who would want to read about such a mundane topic?…
Minnesotans love boats, and canoes are a particular favorite. The state has the highest per capita rate of recreational boat ownership in the nation, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Consequently, the current exhibit, Why Canoes? Capacious Vessels and Indigenous Future of Minnesota’s Peoples and Places, at the Northrop Gallery should find an interested audience. The exhibit reflects the desire of three Indigenous peoples—Dakota, Anishinaabe, and Micronesian—to revitalize their canoe-building traditions, and to pass them on to the next generation.
In February 2021, artist Moira Villiard debuted her installation, Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard as the fourth installment of the Illuminate the Lock series at the closed Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On three chilly February evenings, 2,500 people walked through the snow on top of Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam to watch what Villiard calls an “animated video collage” projected on the 49-by-400-foot concrete walls of the no-longer-functioning lock.
Bassett Creek, a meandering waterway separating North Minneapolis from the rest of the city, was ignored, piped, and hidden from the landscape over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The creek’s main stem begins downstream of Medicine Lake. The North Branch and the Sweeney Lake Branch join it in the 1.7-mile long tunnel that runs through Minneapolis (Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission, n.d.). Unlike many of the other water features in Minneapolis such as the Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Creek, Bassett Creek was not seen as an amenity…
… the River is also a place upon and a relationship with whom we might also build relations of kinship and reciprocity with Dakota and Ojibwe communities in the shared hopes of together building new / old ways of knowing and being for a more just future, one that flows from renewing proper relations in decidedly Indigenous terms.