June 8-9, 2013
“...the time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.” —Eduardo Galeano, Walking Words
“Chronological connectivity puts us in touch with the ages and with the eternities, suggesting that we are part of a larger and more significant organism. It puts us in touch with the holy. It is at once humbling and exhilarating.... Connection with the past and the future is a pathway that charms us in the direction of sanity and grace.” —James Howard Kunstler, Home From Nowhere
Ippississim, like all of our projects, is a work in progress. We’ve gathered here a handful of stories across time and place along a 6 mile stretch of The Mississippi River. Like gathering water between the palms of your hands, the stories that flow through this river can never be contained in a single gesture. There will always be omissions, assumptions and misreadings; perspectives skewed in the retelling. These are some stories of the “upside down” river. They might complicate and confound the stories you’re used to hearing about this place. It’s our hope that this short de-tour will present you with the opportunity to consider this moment, aboard this ship travelling through time and place, as it relates to a much greater whole. These things happened. Where appropriate, an entry begins with the year and place of occurrence. The numbers in parentheses below the entry correspond to a list of sources on the final page. Literal transcriptions are italicized. So: Come one, come all, come Sun! Together we’ll travel the upside down river. Let’s dip our toes into the waters that thrill and sustain us and turn past, present and future on end!
This Project was produced by Works Progress Studio for Northern Spark on June 8-9, 2013. It is a collaborative project by Shanai Matteson, Colin Kloecker and Ady Olson. This booklet was printed on June 6th, 2013.
Acknowledgements to author Eduardo Galeano, whose Memory of Fire trilogy inspired a new way of thinking in us; and to artist Mona Smith, the Minnesota Humanities Center and other creators of the Bdote Memory Map, for inspiring us to better see the meanings in this place. And to all of the people we’ve travelled the river with, especially Pat Nunnally at the University of Minnesota’s River Life Program, Dan Dressler and Dave Wiggins with the National Park Service, Katie Nyberg at the Mississippi River Fund and of course our friends at the Padelford Packet Boat Company and Captain Bob Deck for being such gracious hosts. With our hearts, we thank you.
9700-9400 Before Present, Glacial River Warren Falls
1805, Wita Tanka (Pike Island)
The Falls That Moved
Seeking the Source
This is a place shaped by water. Rushing, freezing, melting and flowing; moving rock and soil with it, washing earth away. An enormous waterfall begins its journey here. Nearly 200 feet high, it stretches from the east bluff to where the Cathedral stands today, ten times the width of Niagara. Over its edge gush the icy waters of Glacial River Warren, born from the catastrophic force of a glacier in retreat at the end of an ice age. Over time, though much faster than you might imagine, the water of this river erodes the soft sandstone hidden beneath the surface, leaving the harder limestone cap precarious and prone to collapse. Inch by inch, and sometimes foot by foot, the falls wash away - moving the precipice further upriver each year. Today you’ll find the ghost of Glacial River Warren Falls eight miles up river, at St. Anthony Falls, entombed in concrete, on the much less mighty Mississippi.
When he fails to identify the source of the Mississippi River, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike of the Army of the United States pursues other endeavors - among them, negotiating a treaty on behalf of the United States government for the purchase of land around the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota from the Dakota, for whom the area was and is still sacred. The specific boundaries of this purchase are unclear. Only two of the seven Dakota leaders present sign the treaty. The agreed upon purchase price is $200,000, but later the United States Senate authorizes just $2,000 for the land. This treaty will never be properly proclaimed by President Jefferson. To many this will be seen as one of the most significant deceptions carried out on these shores, robbing a people of their homeland. The land will eventually become the foundation for our Twin Cities, beginning with Fort Snelling, near Pike Island, which the Dakota know as Wita Tanka, the place where life began.
(2) 2213 BP - Present, Indian Mounds Park
A Catalog of Mounds Long Gone & A Chronicle of Their Destruction If you were to plot the location of native burial mounds on a map of the Upper Mississippi; and then if you removed the features of that map until only the mounds remained; you’d still be able to trace the course of the River. That trace would grow fainter with time, as more and more of these mounds disappear desecrated or destroyed by commercial development, by the building of highways and new homes, by archaeologists, and by ordinary park visitors, who will picnic on the mounds and often remark upon the beauty of their unobstructed river view. Today, only 6 of the original 37 mounds remain atop the bluff at Indian Mounds Park, each encircled by a fence, a reminder to visitors that these are the graves of ancestors, and not playgrounds or perches. (18 and 45)
Haha Wakpa. Misi Ziibi. Mississippi. “There are divergent views about a place represented by one’s philosophy and what one’s time and place was in history. [What’s important is] not looking at them as separate from each other, but looking at how one area is related to another. [Through history there is a pattern where] names have been placed by one group, but there was already a name there that represented the values and beliefs of a previous people. Placing that name upon the other in one sense takes away from its original meaning and its traditional place within the people who occupied it first. There’s a lot of conflict over places and names today as we sort out who we are, really as one people within a spiritual world.” —Sydney Beane (4)
(7 and 21) 1800s, Upper Mississippi
About This Time You Will Hear Thunder In 1822 a meteor falls near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Dakota winter counts describe the ball of fire disappearing into the gorge. Colonel Snelling writes of the great sound of a meteor striking below the Fort. Downriver and a decade earlier, eyewitnesses aboard boats moored at the river’s edge wake to find the current flowing backward. Trees bend and break into the water. The air smells of sulfur and is filled with coal dust. No one is harmed, though several lose their way, confusing east and west, north and south. In 1861 a great comet is seen over the river. For more than a month it blazes across the horizon. Many see this visitation as a sign of impending death and destruction. It can still be seen overhead as troops gather to fight the first land battle of the Civil War. In the years that follow, there will be giant skeletons found, fantastic beasts sighted, witchcraft and government experiments practiced, rare sickness suffered and of prophecies come true. This is a place where these things have happened, and still do. (19, 32 and 47)
Colors of the River Zebulon Pike writes in his journal in 1805: “The water of the Mississippi, since we passed Lake Pepin, has been remarkably red; and where it is deep, appears as black as ink.” Henry Long, on his 1817 expedition up the river, notes: “The water is entirely colorless and free from everything that would render it impure, either to sight or taste. It has a greenish appearance… but when taken into a vessel is perfectly clear.”
Explorer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft describes the water in 1820 as “chocolate brown.” The Dakota call this region Mni Sota Makoce, which is often translated as “land of sky blue waters,” but more precisely, means “land where the waters reflect the sky.” (3 and 31)
Look Up Dog’s Tail. Little Bear. Big Dipper. The Drinking Gourd helps to guide slaves to freedom as they navigate the Underground Railroad. The Lakota use Wichakihuyapa to teach their children about men’s and women’s life paths. At the end of a person’s life, these stars become a vessel to carry you to Wanagi Ta Chanku, the Road of Spirits, the Milky Way. However still they may seem, the stars are not permanent fixtures in the sky. They shift ever so slowly, and every few thousand years the north pole points toward a different star. When we look skyward, what we see is a slightly skewed version of what our ancestors saw when they looked up. (12, 33, 35 and 40) 1823, Lower Landing
Steamboat Virginia and Its Most Eccentric Passenger The arrival of the steamboat Virginia in 1823 harkens a new era in transportation: Virginia is the first steamboat to successfully navigate the upper Mississippi. On board is Giacomo Beltrami, a small, eccentric Italian aristocrat who has come up the river determined to discover its source, and who is never without the red parasol he uses to shield his sensitive skin from sun and rain. Like so many others before and after him, Beltrami dreams of discovering the source of the Mississippi. He names the lake he mistakes for the headwaters Guilia, in memory of a friend back home. Triumphant, Beltrami continues to travel the region, naming surrounding lakes after his family members. More than wrong, Beltrami has little time for details. He leaves no record of which lakes he has named, nor what names he has given. His bequest is lost to time. (5 & 36) 1838, Fort Snelling
Freedom To Marry On eve of the ceremony, the bride takes extra care when washing the laundry, feeling as though this is a new beginning. The groom is a widower, nearly twice her age, but they’ve fallen in love and want to start a proper family. Clouds gather above, threatening storms. The bride wears a white cotton dress and hopes that it won’t be muddied by falling rain. A traditional ceremony is performed by US Major Taliaferro, a justice of the peace and the bride’s owner. The bride and groom do not jump over a broom, as is customary for slave weddings, but instead kiss one another to proclaim their commitment. At Fort Snelling, in free territory,
Harriet Robinson and Dred Scott become husband and wife, adding fuel to the court case they will make years later in a fight for their freedom. (15)
The River vs. The Railroad Swing bridges like the one near downtown Saint Paul are more than a means to cross the Mississippi River, they are sites of conflict over the meaning of the river, and over the river as means of conveyance. In the 1850s a battle rages between advocates of north-south traffic, and proponents of east-west travel. It is a contest between the old lines of migration and the new; between the slow and cheap transportation by water and the rapid, but more expensive, transportation by rail; between steamboats and steam locomotives. A swing bridge at Rock Island, Illinois becomes the center of this conflict, and eventually leads to a landmark court case, won via hung jury for railroad interests thanks to the expert legal counsel of one Abraham Lincoln. (37) 1858, Lower Landing
A Break in the Bluff In the year that Saint Paul becomes the capital for the new state of Minnesota, Lower Landing is already one of the busiest steamboat landings in the country. It is the point of arrival for tens of thousands of immigrants as well as the city’s primary connection to information and goods from elsewhere. Newcomers who disembark at Lower Landing have a huge impact on the city’s early development: the Swedish immigrants who find their footing in the Svenska Dalen (Swede Hollow) shantytown; the eight German-Jewish merchants who found Minnesota’s first Jewish congregation at Mount Zion Temple; and a Czech man named Michael Karták, who along with hundreds of others will settle along West 7th Street and form fraternal halls, churches, a gymnastic organization and a Free-thought Society. (9 and 13) 1863, Lower Landing
We’ve Come this Far by Faith The men, women, and children tucked away in the holds of the steamboat Northerner don’t know where they will end up, but they know they are headed north. They’ve escaped from their slave-masters in Boone County, Missouri and walked for miles through the darkness of night to reach Saint Louis. Now, smuggled aboard the Northerner, adrenaline courses through their veins. They call themselves pilgrims because they’ve put their faith in God to lead them to a land of freedom. After disembarking on the shores of a city named for Paul the Apostle, these pilgrims will go on to found the first black congregation in Minnesota. In 1866, when Pilgrim Baptist Church is formally incorporated with a building of its own, the congregants will walk down to the banks of the Mississippi River to hold a baptismal service, their sins washed away by the same river that delivered them to freedom. (17, 22 and 38)
Ohio air show accident in 1931.
1863, Lower Landing
(25 and 39)
Freedom and Forced Relocation The day after the Northerner delivers 300 Boone County, Missouri pilgrims to their freedom in Saint Paul, 1,300 Dakota previously interned in a concentration camp on Wita Tanka (Pike Island) are marched onto the very same boat, among others, and taken down to the Missouri River to be relocated at Crow Creek Reservation, barren territory ravaged by smallpox and flood, in what will eventually become South Dakota. Two-hundred will die from starvation in the first six months, most of them children. (10, 28 and 46) 1919, Harriet Island
1930s, Saint Paul
The Last City of the East “Increasingly overshadowed by their upstart neighbor, St. Paulites remade their image of themselves into the ‘last city of the East’—gracious rather than grasping, neighborly rather than competitive, defining themselves fundamentally as ‘not Minneapolis.’ In short, they turned economic stagnation into a cultural virtue—at least in their own minds.... By the 1930s Fortune magazine declared that the most important fact to know about the Twin Cities was that ‘they hate each other.’” —Mary Lethert Wingerd (26)
A Brief Holiday for the Citizens of Saint Paul
1931, State Capitol
Dr. Justus Ohage dreams of a beautiful park dedicated to the health of Saint Paul’s citizens, so he purchases an island in the middle of the Mississippi River, donates the land to the city and builds his dream into being. In addition to areas for recreation and picnicking, the new public park has a beach and a bath house, because according to Dr. Ohage, “Cleanliness is essential to the maintenance of good health.” The park is a grand success, seeing six million visitors in its first six years of operation. In 1919, pollution, including human excrement and waste from Saint Paul’s meat-packing district, forces the closure of the baths at this oasis for public health on the river. (1, 14 and 24) 1925, Lower Landing
A Brief Holiday for Swift and Armour “When we reached South St. Paul we scurried past. It was a holiday, and neither Swift nor Armour packing plants were running, but the shore near the plants was lined with blood and refuse. We were told that the river purifies itself every thirty miles, but when the sewage of large cities and packing plants is dumped directly into streams in increasing quantities, this becomes impossible. The great problems of the engineers of tomorrow is not building bridges or dams, but sanitary engineering, prevention of pollution of our inland waters.” —Albert Tousley (44) 1928, Holman Field
There Is No Away The river doesn’t swallow things, it only moves them away, and sometimes not very far. And so the refuse is concentrated and conveyed downriver, out of sight and out of mind. In these waters one can find broken machinery, carcasses from meat-packing plants and human excrement, sometimes 145 million gallons a day from the twin cities alone. The bacteria works to decompose the waste, they consume the oxygen in the water, creating a dead zone where aquatic life can scarcely survive. In 1930, the Army Corps of Engineers completes work on Lock and Dam No. 2 near Hastings. Now the sewage and other pollutants begin backing up, no longer out of sight, mind or nose. Up until this point, legislators had only debated the issue, but as the putrid stench reaches the State Capitol, they finally pass a bill authorizing funds for the construction of the Pig’s Eye Wastewater Treatment Plant. 1933, Lower Landing
Such Is Our Baptism Into the Great River “The Betsy-Nell has been lowered into the sewage-laden water. Fish die, bloat and turn idly about in the eddies, showing their worm-infested bodies like a curse to the men who infected their world. Continuously their white mouths nudge the manure of humanity, the off-wash of the streets and gutters; and here, curling under our starboard side, a brown foam bubbles and steams. Such is our baptism into the Great River.” —Clarence Jonk (20)
Guiding Light Charles “Speed” Holman is a legendary stunt pilot and a Saint Paul hero. He sets a world record by performing 1,433 consecutive loops in his biplane over St. Paul Downtown Airport in the course of five hours, a record that won’t be broken for 22 years. To pay the bills, Holman flies an airmail delivery route to and from Chicago. He navigates at night by following a trail of blinking airway beacons, which guide him through the darkness to once again land safely on the banks of the Mississippi. The St. Paul Downtown Airport will be named for Holman after his death in an
2004, Mississippi River Pools 3 & 4
The Shell and The Soft Parts Monkeyface (Quadrula metanevra), Mapleleaf (Quadrula quadrula), Pocketbook (Lampsilis ovate ventricosa), Pimpleback (Quadrula pustulosa), Pigtoe (Fusconaia lava), Hickorynut (Obovaria olivaria), Elephant Ear (Elliptio crassidens), Fragile Papershell (Leptodea fragilis), Pink Heelsplitter (Proptera alata), Fawnfoot (Truncilla donaciformis).
The life cycle of the freshwater mussel is complex. The male releases sperm into the water. The female draws it through a siphon. Eggs are stored in the female’s gills, called marsupium. They are fertilized and develop into larvae or glochidia, which resemble miniature clams. To survive, they attach to fish and remain there as harmless parasites. When they’re ready, they fall gently onto the riverbed. If the substrate and currents are congenial, the young mussels will survive and begin their eight-year maturation into adulthood. If the currents are too fast, or the riverbed disturbed, the mussels will quietly disappear. Biologist Mike Davis of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is bringing them back, beginning with the Higgins’ Eye (Lampsilis higginsi), a vulnerable species that foretells of things to come. At dawn, Davis wades into the waters around Lake Pepin to check on his brood. He is a guardian of tiny shells, and spends his days considering how something so small could change the course of a mighty river. He knows that mussels are the coral reefs of the Mississippi, yet tourists are not flocking to see them, not that they could, through the cloudy water. (11 and 23) 2006, Wakan Tipi
Restoration “Wakan Tipi means that navel place, that birthplace, that mother’s belly, that burial mound, where we come from the mother and we go back to the mother. And in that cave there’s water that flows like the birth water.” —Jim Rock In the 1860s James J. Hill dynamites part of this sacred cave to make room for his railroad, destroying the cave ceiling and the markings on it, which “tell us about where we come from, who we are, and the words that are spoken in the oral civilization of all those relatives along the river.” The diesel fuel from the trains poison the water in Wakan Tipi. In the mid 20th century tourists vandalize the cave’s remaining petroglyphs, so the entrance to the sacred place has to be blocked with a steel plate in 1976 to prevent further desecration. In the early years of this century community groups collaborate to restore the cave and the surrounding land, establishing the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. “I’m very grateful to be involved in a restoration of that sacred wetland at Wakan Tipi. That word ‘restoration’ implies that there was some problem there, that we’re restoring the land to the way it was before. I don’t know. That’s a prayer. That’s a living prayer. To restore something that’s sacred that has been desecrated is so hard.... [We have] the responsibility to feel at this place, our Garden of Eden, place of our genesis, and also our genocide.” The cave’s desecration and the banishment of the Dakota people “was kind of the beginning of the end, but maybe now we have the opportunity for a new beginning.” (34 and 41) May 2008, Fort Snelling
A Reenactment To mark the 150th anniversary of statehood, the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Wagon Train makes a symbolic journey from Cannon Falls to the State
Capitol, with an overnight stop at Fort Snelling, a living history museum where tourists use cellphone cameras to snap pictures of blacksmiths, physicians, soldiers and their slaves. They don’t see any of the 1,300 Dakota people, mostly women and children, who spent a long winter in a concentration camp on the island below the fort, awaiting their forced relocation to the west. This is Dakota homeland, and today a crowd gathers to see the Wagon Train arriving again, a reenactment of a process that began but has never really ended. Among them are Dakota men, women and children who want to know why they are still invisible. If no one can see them, why have the police come on horseback, and in squad cars, to hurry their protest? Lying down in front of the wagons, one woman holds a placard. It reads: If we get in your way, will you kill us again? (42)
Missing You and Forget Me Not A popular Chinese lyric from the Han period 2000 years ago includes an anecdote about a man far away from home who sends his wife a pair of carp. A storied fish, carp makes frequent appearances in literature and cuisine throughout China and the world. In this anecdote, the wife opens the fish to cook it, and finds a silk strip carrying a love note. It reads: Eat well to keep fit. Missing you and forget me not. In the 1870s and 1880s a campaign is launched to introduce non-native fish species into Minnesota lakes and rivers. Propelled by the spectre of overconsumption and a belief in the power of science, the Minnesota Fish Commission begins stocking fisheries with carp, which pleases immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe, homesick for the fish. Today, scientists and conservationists struggle to find a way to keep the large silver carp and other non-native carp species out of this stretch of Mississippi River, for fear they will degrade habitat, outcompete other species, and deter recreational boaters by jumping violently from the water, striking and sometimes even killing those in their path. (16)
Perspectives on Dependence 90 percent of the nation’s agricultural exports depend on the river. More than 40 percent of the country’s migratory birds depend on the river. 25 percent of North American fish species depend on the river. 60 percent of Americans live in the Mississippi River watershed and therefore depend on the river. (6) 2011, Island Station Power Plant
Ode to Obsolescence A coveted destination for urban explorers and land speculators alike, the Island Station Power Plant has yet to reach its full potential. Construction begins on the coal plant in 1921, but before the ribbon can be cut, a more efficient technology is developed,
rendering the new plant obsolete. It never operates at full capacity, and in 1975 is finally decommissioned. After 10 years as a storage facility, it is purchased and piecemeal converted into artist studios. For a time, a colony of houseboat dwellers moors at the plant. Then in 2003 it is sold to developers with the grand vision of a 235-unit condo and a 20-slip marina. The economy collapses and those plans stall. In 2011, another developer sets its sights on the plant, with the goal of demolition and a fresh start, but is thwarted by the Saint Paul City Council, who sees in this iconic underdog the possibility of regeneration on the river’s edge. (29) 2011-2012
This Was Eden “I feel like I can’t talk about Pike Island without talking about Fort Snelling as well…it is not a place where there should have been bloodshed. It is not a place where there should have been tears in the past or today. It is not a place where all of these horrible things should have been committed. But at the same time, it kind of forms this sick irony, the place of our genesis, is also the place of genocide. The place of our creation is also the place of our destruction. It is a very sacred site to us, for both of those reasons. The trees that surround Pike Island can’t even remember because they were all leveled by soldiers after the war, that the trees feel that loss because they cannot remember, but the ground does. The idea that the stone in the fort is fake, but the building and foundations still remember.” — Autumn Cavender-Wilson (8)
The predictions of climate scientists ring true as global warming brings stubborn droughts to the Great Plains and wild weather to the half of the country drained by the Mississippi River. In 2011 a historic flood causes the river to overtop its banks. In 2012 a crippling drought causes the water to drop dramatically. One year people hurry to sandbag property, the next they witness businesses shuttering because the river is too shallow for shipping. There’s talk of mitigation, diversions and drinking water, but mostly of the lack of comprehensive policies that span the whole river. Instead, the Mississippi is tapped on a first-come basis, leaving those of us at the headwaters with an enormous responsibility. (27) 2013, Schmidt Brewery
The Brew That Grew The Great Northwest The Schmidt Brewery’s success helps to make its owners, the Bremers, one of Minnesota’s wealthiest families - and a target for kidnappers. In 1934, the Barker-Karpis Gang—under orders from Ma Barker and Creepy Karpis—kidnap Adolf Bremer’s son Edward. They’ve already kidnapped and released William Hamm Jr., president of the city’s Hamm Brewing Co., and released him for a $100,000 ransom. During the Schmidt era, workers are organized by the Brewery Workers Union. The predominantly German Brewery Workers are one of two industrial unions in the early American Federation of Labor, alongside the United Mine Workers. Proudly socialist, they put the slogan, “Workers of the World Unite” at the top of their union letterhead. On January 29, 2013 Mayor Chris Coleman joins developers for an official ground breaking at the shuttered brewery. This $100 million project will bring artist lofts; studios for yoga, dance, pottery; performance and other artistic activities to West 7th Street. (30 and 43)
The Future River: An Index Atrazine. Biodiversity. Climate. Drought. Endocrine Disruptor. Flood. Governance. Habitat. Invasive. Jurisdiction. Kilowatt. Lock. Mischief. Nitrogen. Obsolescence. Population. Quality. Rewilding. Sediment. Urbanism. Valued. Wastewater. Xanthate. You. Zebra Mussels.
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