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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.
Relationalities, or the web of interconnected relations of kinship and ethical regard among Indigenous people, land, water, and sky scapes, include the agential or personhood status of otherwise non-human “natural” elements, their interconnectivity that occurs at multiple and simultaneous temporal scales and logics, and the need for intellectual and social agility and nimbleness to keep apace with, in our case, “water” and Indigenous knowledge about water and interconnected relationships.
Water has long played an important role in my life. In fact, it played a role in my very beginning. Like all of you, I first lived in a water environment, then was born into this world. A few weeks later, I was baptized with water. This sacrament joins me with many others that share my faith traditions, and water is sacred in many traditions.