By Shanai Matteson
What does it meant to really, truly know water? Not to know about it—but know it, learn with it, teach in it? These are some of the questions guiding the Ways of Knowing Water research collaborative, which began convening in December to explore new models for knowing and teaching water at the University of Minnesota and beyond.
Our collaborative—which is co-convened by Boris Oicherman (Weisman Art Museum), Jessica Hellman (Institute on Environment) and Shanai Matteson (Water Bar & Public Studio)—is comprised of scholars who know and study water from various disciplinary perspectives, and as artists, scientists, activists, healers, elders and community leaders.
First Study Session: Psíŋ and Mní
Our first study session was held in January at Water Bar & Public Studio in Minneapolis. Collaborative members Jewell Arcoren (Healing Place Collaborative) and Ethan Neerdaels (Dakhóta Iápi Okhódakičhiye) led this session, bringing Mni (water) and Psíŋ (the water grass commonly known as “wild” rice) from around Minnesota for all of us to smell, taste, and consider. Jewell and Ethan shared Dakota stories and relationships with water, sparking conversation among the group about the limitations of disciplinary thinking, and the cascading impacts of colonization, including the hierarchical approach many of us take to nature and knowledge. The conversation meandered between the kinship of water, rice, and people in Dakota culture; to the role of wild rice in environmental science research and policy; to personal knowledge and experience with land, water, and food ways in our jobs, our communities, and our visions for the future. What would the implications be—for science research, environmental advocacy, or socially-engaged artistic practice—if more people were to regard water and other species as relatives, rather than merely as resource?
This was a fitting place to begin our collaborative inquiry, and left our group with much to think about and work through in our upcoming study sessions! We will be sharing reflections from the Ways of Knowing Water collaborative on the the Water Bar & Public Studio blog.