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From the exhibit, a canoe, paddle, and creation stories from the Asabiikone-zaa'igan (The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa). Image by Laura Mazuch, UMN Printing Services.

Why Canoes? An Exhibit at the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Gallery

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.[1] 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.

Ghost forest panorama in coastal North Carolina. Image by Emily Ury, CC BY-ND.

Ghost Forests

Sea level rise is killing trees along the Atlantic coast, creating ‘ghost forests’ that are visible from space. Trekking out to my research sites near North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, I slog through knee-deep water on a section of trail that is completely submerged. Permanent flooding has become commonplace on this low-lying peninsula, nestled behind North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The trees growing in the water are small and stunted. Many are dead…

Wild rice and the 1833 Survey of Menominee’s Reservation. Image by Elan Pochedley.

Restorative Cartography of the Theakiki Region: Mapping Potawatomi Presences in Indiana

This article explores what decolonization can consist of—and be envisioned as—when we recognize how settler colonial governance, policies, industries, and structures have affected both Indigenous peoples and nonhuman relatives within their respective homelands. I assert that analyses of settler colonialism must address the environmental dislocations and degradations experienced by both humans and nonhumans.

Community-managed Traditional Means of Irrigation in the Semi-arid Aravali Landscape

Earthen channels winding like serpents across a hilly landscape are not a common sight everywhere. They appear quite misplaced in a terrain that is highly undulating and rugged, covered with dry deciduous forests and dotted with rocky outcrops. Such a terrain is hardly conducive for agriculture, and irrigation seems unfeasible in villages located in the back of beyond. Yet the sheer will and determination of humans to challenge the impossible and put forth remarkable and ingenious works should never be underestimated.

Climate Land Leaders are learning that soil health is needed for healthy waters. Image courtesy of Sharing Our Roots.

Creating Our Water Futures

This issue of Open Rivers invites us all to envision the kind of future we hope to have with water. It encourages us to see the possibilities. By imagining the relationships we want with water, imagining the water conditions we want to see in our future, we begin to see both the challenges and potentials in our present and the steps necessary to move us to these desired and desirable water conditions…

Illustration of major rivers for ‘Confluence: The History of North American Rivers’ courtesy of Robert Szucs, www.grasshoppergeography.com.

Teaching the History of American Rivers

Like Open Rivers, I have long tried to answer the question of the value of river history and how can it be put to work to achieve environmental justice. While we each have a home or favorite river that captivates us, there is a broader, if unspoken, understanding of rivers and the role they play in shaping our history. Last fall I organized a conference that attempted to address this challenge. Called All Water Has a Memory: Rivers and American History, the conference featured presenters from academia, nature writing, and environmental and community activism who shared their history and experience of individual rivers in three sessions: Slavery and Freedom, Indigenous Resistance, and The Environmental Movement…

Illustration of Nokomis (Grandmother) appearing over a fire.Image courtesy of Nedahness Greene.

On Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard with Moira Villiard

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.

Where Bassett Creek meets the Mississippi River. Image courtesy of Patrick Nunnally.

Hidden Waterways: Bassett Creek

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…

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…