Saturday, May 30, 2009

May 30: Headwaters and Discovery

by Molly MacGregor
The Mississippi Headwaters is formed by the Itasca moraine, a great hump of earth that squeezes groundwater out and pushes surface waters to its north to the Mississippi; to the southeast, the Crow Wing; southwest to the Ottertail, west to the Buffalo, and north to the Clearwater. These waters gather and flow through the Red River of the North to Hudson’s Bay, and through the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. The Itasca moraine is the ecological and geological heart of the North American continent.
The Mississippi was a cross roads for the first people. Plains to the west were a butcher shop of protein – elk, buffalo, and deer. To the east were the lakes with wild rice, berries, and fish. At the tiny creeks feeding Lake Itasca and the Mississippi River, there are remains from ancient hunting parties, buffalo bones, discarded stone tools and campfires. Europeans used the route for fur trade, because it connected Lake Superior to the Red River and Hudson’s Bay. The river linked people and therefore made a community.
Henry Schoolcraft was the young American who capitalized on the experience of his Anishinaabe relatives and friends to make himself the discoverer of the Mississippi Headwaters. He clearly wanted the distinction of being known as the river’s discoverer, but he clearly credits Ozawindib, a relative through marriage, who guided him up the river. HSchoolcraft clearly wanted to make himself a reputation as the discoverer of the Mississippi Headwaters. Yet, he acknowledged that it was his Native American relatives who made it possible. is voyage of discovery was built on a foundation of companionship.
You can’t step in the same place in a river, because the river changes and so do you, wrote Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher of change. You can say the same about the history of a place: how we know is colored by who we are. We can set aside the history of the place and remember that discovery is built on the shared power of imagination, and acknowledge that the search for the river’s headwaters was an act of community
Molly MacGregor was the Director of the Mississippi Headwaters Board for 12 years. She's the author of "The Mississppi Headwaters Guidebook",
and will be our guide as we go down the River.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

thanks for being our guide as we traverse the mighty Mississippi down to Brainerd...the history is fascinating!