River Voices: Eleanor Burkett

I grew up on an island on the Souris River which winds though my hometown of Minot, North Dakota. “What?” you ask? Yep, my North Dakota neighborhood was surrounded by water. My friends and I caught bullheads, explored the riverbanks and had our first experiences of canoeing. Sometimes at night, we’d lay head-to-head, on the footbridge crossing the river between my neighborhood and a city park, sharing expectant dreams and pondering the secrets of the heavens.

The river was dirty from sediment blown in by the winds of the prairie and erosion carried in the spring thaw. Sometimes it was intentionally covered in oil to prevent mosquito larva from hatching. It flooded twice in my youth, causing my family to leave our home and find shelter with family-friends who lived on the surrounding hills. I took it all for granted. I didn’t understand how water was so central to my life.

Kiwanis Park

Together we have a bigger voice, to let decision-makers in Minnesota know the urgency of protecting our water resources and to help them understand that clean water is vital to the health of our communities and the economy of our state. It is up to us to act now and choose a sustainable path into the future.

Now I live in the basin of the upper Mississippi River, not far from the clean, clear headwaters. For over thirty years, I have had the great fortune of swimming and kayaking in area lakes and, for the most part, wasn’t too worried about the water I was bathing in or drinking. At times I have been thoroughly discouraged by the path we humans are on in relationship to water and the natural world. I have felt the pain of seeing for myself how susceptible the river and its tributaries are to impacts from human activity. Water is important to us all. Whether we fish, cross-country ski, golf or grow food. We all want to be assured the water we drink and bathe in is safe and clean.

I am honored to be engaged with local volunteers, elected officials and others through the Our Mississippi Our Future campaign. We explore the services and value nature provides, the impacts of changing the landscape within the region, and the importance of protecting what we value. In the Our Mississippi Our Future initiative, we claim our power by engaging through stories and conversation of what motivates us to take action. Together we have a bigger voice, to let decision-makers in Minnesota know the urgency of protecting our water resources and to help them understand that clean water is vital to the health of our communities and the economy of our state. It is up to us to act now and choose a sustainable path into the future. This river and the region are all of ours, our collective story and our responsibility to protect. If we don’t act now will it be too late?

Two people chatting by the headwaters of the Mississippi River
Two people chatting by the headwaters of the Mississippi River

Got a Story to Tell?

Share your clean water story with the Our Mississippi Our Future campaign team!

How has your connection to water shaped your life path? Do you have a favorite Minnesota lake or river? How are you sharing your love of Minnesota waters with others? Whatever motivates you to take action for Our Mississippi, we want to hear about it!