In early December, River Watch, in partnership with the South High School All Nations program and MIGIZI, took on the challenge of cleaning up a freshwater creek at the Mound Springs Park in Bloomington, MN. South High Instructor, Carmen Gavin-Vanegas, discovered this polluted stream while on a walk with her family. She contacted River Watch, and we got to work figuring out how to involve her All Nations students in the cleaning of this creek.
We began our project with a blessing and a smudging ceremony led by Tedi Owl and AllenMichael Owen from MIGIZI. Then, with a truck bed’s worth of equipment (shovels, wheelbarrows, safety gloves, rope), fourteen students and five adults trekked down the beautiful trail to the heavily impaired creek. Upon arriving, the shallow creek, nestled in the steep ravine, was mostly frozen over. The ice made traversing the ravine relatively easy, but made it decidedly more difficult to remove the trash in the creek bed. Over two hours, we removed 13 tires, a car battery, a folding chair, 2 microwaves (just a guess, as they were incredibly rusted), and other bits of plastics and refuse. Prying the tires from the creekbed was particularly strenuous because, on top of them being frozen into place, they had been there so long the tires had embedded themselves deep into the soil. We were able to remove every large piece of trash (looking at you large metal tank), but we got everything we could out of the waterway, which will undoubtedly reduce the amount of toxins leaching into the stream and nearby lake.
It was so gratifying to see the students engage in work that immediately resulted in cleaner water. This work was particularly special because Mound Spring Park is a culturally significant area to Indigenous Minnesotans, having one of the highest concentrations of burial mounds in the Twin Cities. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the passionate group of organizers, without whom this project could not have been accomplished. Thank you to the All Nations Student of South High School, Ms. Gavin-Vanegas, MIGIZI’s Tedi Owl, AllenMichael Owen, and the president of the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District Joseph Barisonzi. I can’t wait to see what the stream looks like when we go back in the spring.