Written by 1 Mississippi intern in Mississippi , Mark River Peoples*
When you are a voyager and protector of the mighty Mississippi River, and surf its wake whenever nature allows, introduction and developing relationships with its tributaries, steams, creeks, rills, and runnels are inevitable. They act as capillaries of the cardiovascular system of the amazing human body. From the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian; they all drain to the Mississippi River. The Pearl River percolates from central Mississippi to it’s mouth at Lake Ponchartrain, which is a major estuary of the alluvial fan of the delta at New Orleans. Early French And Spanish boasted of clear, pure water, visible to it’s rocky bottom. Actually, the rocky bottom turned out to be a plethora of exoskeletons of various species of invertebrates like freshwater clams and mussels.
The Mighty Quapaws have many natural world and community-driven responsibilities that we practice daily. So as we exit for Naturefest in Jackson,MS., while people of the world are showing up for Clarksdale, MS. annual Juke Joint Festival, everyone understands that our purpose and passion always proceeds the party. Naturefest would be held at Lefluer Bluff State Park section of the Pearl River. We arrived early, so we explore the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science History and adapt to our surroundings of our full day ahead of us. The museum had a variety of aquariums, with different settings, habitats, and ecosystems that exists throughout Mississippi. The staff of the museum created a special atmosphere and learning environment throughout the museum. As we end the day, we dine with museum staff and discuss issues that involve our great rivers and the creatures that thrive in them; for tomorrow we will be giving guided tours on the Pearl River, first thing in the morning.
Usually, the Mighty Quapaws spend our nights with the bright stars, planets, and moons and awake to the orchestra of songbird, followed by the radiant beams of the sun. The accommodations were unusual for us and you could the awkwardness in our demeanor, residing in such modern shelters. We rise early, have breakfast and make our small commute through the park. In our travel, we moonlight as The Turtle Rescue Team, whether its between our weekly trips to Helena, Arkansas for KIPP Delta Schools programs, or routine training , to and from the Mississippi River. As we meander through the park slowly, “Stop!” We noticed a freshwater turtle crossing the road and dutifully rescued number four for the season. Its a big red-eared turtle. Turtles are vulnerable during early spring and summer, their instinctive yearn to reproduce sends them exploring new territories, out of there normal freshwater habitats. We continue knowing that’s the start of a great day!
We release the vessels, using unique Quapaw technique. The “Ladybug” glides frictionless across the beautiful River medium hydroplaning as if on ice. The attention we gave her this week through varnishing, has made her fast and sleek, more efficient. She’s happy. We’re happy knowing that the River’s pure white sand, full of freshwater mussels and clams, is an indication of the River’s health. Around the small bend, we spot eager volunteers anticipating our landing. Smiles, introductions, handshakes, and hugs. We set up camp and I await the arrival of my first River Citizens. We come together as a unified group, signing new River Citizens, outfitting, guiding, teaching, and learning – all day long.
I’m observant by nature, so I noticed the attitude transformations and adjustments of many extended, blended families and friends after their experience with the Quapaw lifestyle. They come back more unified and refreshed from having fun and working together as one. We execute the day flawlessly, like a great sports team does; leaving no trace.
On Sunday in Clarksdale, at the infamous Red’s Juke Joint, feeding my creative mind and body with human interaction and “the Blues” – trying to complete this non-fiction composition,I greet Quapaw affiliates from Montana, talk to retired Silicon Valley engineers from Tuskegee University in Alabama, marvel at a 9 year old blues prodigy named Roman, and listen to Red proclaim with enthusiasm,” Backed by the River, forth by the Death!” I stand up-we all toast,”To the River!” What a great weekend!
Mark River Peoples
1 Mississippi Southern Region Intern
*Field Notes are a new series from the 1 Mississippi campaign, created and developed by our regional campaign interns as a means to encourage River Citizen engagement and to help our interns grow as environmental leaders.