Two sets of rivers in what is now known as Canada are vital actors in urban landscapes. The McIntyre and Kaministiquia Rivers in Thunder Bay, Ontario and the Assiniboine and Red Rivers in Winnipeg, Manitoba are sites of colonial violence and disappearance: in both cities, dead Indigenous people have been pulled from their depths.
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A turn-of-the-last-century logging camp; a modest house on the Mississippi that sparked the dreams of a young boy; an early-statehood-era farm; a flour mill; a fort and its surroundings that have layers of contested meaning; a collection of houses from the pre-statehood era; a railroad magnate’s palatial house. What—if anything—do these things have in common?
A dominant narrative in media today tells us that American society is full of juxtaposition and conflict: rural v. urban, rich v. poor, black v. white, conservative v. liberal. We might get the impression that we must stick to our own in-group in order to feel safe and heard. And yet, there is an issue central to life as a Minnesotan regardless of how you identify or with whom you spend your time. That issue—clean water— is a necessity for life and good health.
The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL), which falls under the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota (UMN), is one of several historic buildings along the Minneapolis riverfront. Constructed in 1938 using funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), SAFL utilizes the 50-foot elevation drop over the St. Anthony Falls to bring water into the building for use in experiments and research of fluid dynamics…
They say hindsight is 20/20. Farmers of the past didn’t have information about environmentally friendly agricultural techniques. The farming techniques used today to reduce erosion and other negative environmental effects were developed as we learned from agriculturally derived disasters. Situated in the Whitewater River Valley less than 10 miles from the confluence with the Mississippi River, Beaver, Minnesota was one such town that suffered…
Imagine pouring out a glass of water. Where does the water go?
After soaking your computer or floor, it would eventually flow to join a greater body of water and become part of a larger drainage system. Where I grew up, outside of Milwaukee, my water would join with Lake Michigan. In the Twin Cities, where I went to university, it would flow into the Mississippi River. From Jackson, Wyoming, where I’m writing now, it would combine with the Snake River and flow into the Pacific Ocean. But Glacier National Park, where I worked in the summer of 2017, has a unique little point called Triple Divide Peak.
Within its relatively short length (194 miles) from its source to Lake Superior, and the truncated time frame of 300 years since European contact and colonization, the St. Louis River is emblematic of historical patterns of use and exploitation in the region, as well as recovery attempts, for rivers across the state of Minnesota and indeed much of the country.
I have grown especially interested in water issues. I care about the Mississippi riverfront in Minneapolis, the effects of agriculture on water quality, and the connections people have to their drinking water, lakes, and rivers. So when I went to Germany to study, I took a good look at how the places I visited treated water as part of the landscape.