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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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.
The Lakota phrase “Mní wičhóni,” or “Water is life,” has become a new national protest anthem. It was chanted by 5,000 marchers at the Native Nations March in Washington, D.C. on March 10, and during hundreds of protests across the United States in the last year. “Mní wičhóni” became the anthem of the almost year-long struggle to stop the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River in North Dakota.
How can a map visualize a water current—something that is powerful and physically palpable, but that lies beneath the surface and is largely invisible to the eye? In a recent map, scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) represented the course of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean through swirls of vibrant color denoting its thermal temperature…
Water is a slippery subject: its visual and material properties spur intellectual inquiry and spiritual reverie; its fluctuating form repels categorization and confounds claims of ownership as it crosses property lines and national borders; and river and ocean currents facilitate commercial exchange along with environmental exploitation.