Stories of the upside down river
Excerpt from our introduction to Ippississim:
The time that was continues to tick inside the time that is. —Eduardo Galeano, Walking Words
Ippississim, like so many of our projects, is a work in progress. We’ve started to gather stories from across time—through interviews, historical research, and our own reimaginings—and have mapped them loosely along the six-mile stretch of Mississippi River that winds through Minneapolis and Saint Paul, including its confluence with the Minnesota River.
This stretch of river is familiar to anyone who has immersed themselves in the history of our Twin Cities. On its banks a military fortification furthered the western colonization of America, turning a place of genesis into one of genocide and establishing the settlements that became Saint Paul and Minneapolis. On this Mississippi, people found a source of power, a means of passage, a drainage basin for their waste, and an object of potent cultural imagination. It’s a sacred place to some, all but invisible to many others, and always moving.
Like trying to gather a river in the palms of your hand, the stories that flow through this place could never be contained in a single gesture. There will always be omissions, assumptions, and misreadings—perspectives skewed in the retelling—and much more to say. We embrace these contradictions.
These are stories of the ‘upside down’ river, a concept we’ve borrowed from writer Eduardo Galeano, whose histories of the Americas subvert expectations about who—and what—can speak for a place. Our hope is that these stories complicate and confound the ways we’re used to imagining life on this Mississippi.
These things happened.
These things are happening.
The time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.
Where appropriate, an entry begins with the year and place of occurrence. The numbers in parentheses at the end of each entry correspond to a list of sources on the final page. Literal transcriptions are italicized.
Ippississim was researched and written by Shanai Matteson, Colin Kloecker, and Ady Olson with deep gratitude to Mona Smith and the other contributors to the Bdote Memory Map for revealing the spectral traces alive in this place.
Thank you to all of the people with whom we’ve traveled the river, especially Pat Nunnally at the University of Minnesota’s River Life program, Dan Dressler and David Wiggins with the National Park Service, Katie Nyberg at the Mississippi River Fund, and of course our friends at the Padelford Packet Boat Company.