Sunday, August 3, 2008

Misi-ziibi - "Great River"

(The Mississippi is still over its banks. The guy behind me isn't going to make it!)
The word MISSISSIPPI comes from the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Algonquin) name for the river, Misi-ziibi ("Great River"). It is the 2nd longest river in America – 2,340 miles long – running from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

Yesterday we explored the riverfront area of St. Louis. I was itching to get a closer look and feel of the Mississippi River. Like the Missouri River, it is a big river. I don’t know that I could swim across it. The water was still over its banks, and looks to have risen quite a few feet on the lowest river road last month during the floods.

The Sunday mood around the Gateway Arch was very festive and touristy. The arch, itself, is quite impressive and beautiful – so simple. It was built in the 1960’s as part of an effort to commemorate the “Westward Expansion” of the United States, of which the city of St. Louis played a significant part. All of this history is told, mostly in glowing terms, from the perspective of the white man.

Standing below the Eads Bridge (built in 1872) there is an interpretive marker describing the return of Lewis and Clark in September, 1806. The citizens of St. Louis (population about 1800) had long given them up for dead. However word had drifted in from St. Charles that they were coming back. Lewis and Clark, dressed in furs and animal skins, rounded the river to the North to the cheers of the crowd gathered at the St. Louis riverfront. They went on to become highly honored and celebrated, and their adventure would be etched into the history of America. The soldiers who accompanied them were rewarded with good pay and land. Only Captain William Clark's personal slave, York, who had enjoyed relative freedom on the journey, would be returned to slavery with no compensation for his contribution.


Barbara said...

You bring back memories, beth.
There is something about a great river -- the Mississippi, the St. Lawrence, the Rhein, the Seine, the Tiber, the Yalu. They carry so much history, so many lives were lived along their banks.

beth said...

Yep, there's something about rivers, Barbara. I am amazed at how BIG these rivers are (like the St. Johns in FL) - and how they flow. I don't see a lot of people doing recreational boating in them around here, but maybe I'm just not in the right places. There's something very strong about them, and something mysterious too, that I can't quite put my finger on.