What does ’Aha Makav mean if the river is emptied to the
skeleton of its fish and the miniature sand dunes of its dry
If the river is a ghost, am I?
Unsoothable thirst is one type of haunting.
A phrase popular or more known to non-natives during the
Standing Rock encampment was, Water is the first medicine.
It is true.
Where I come from we cleanse ourselves in the river. Not
like a bath with soap. I mean: the water makes us strong and
able to move forward into what is set before us to do with
We cannot live good, we cannot live at all, without water.
If we poison and use up our water, how will we cleanse
ourselves of these sins?
To thirst and to drink is how one knows they are alive, and
To thirst and then not drink is . . .
If your builder could place a small red bird in your chest to
beat as your heart, is it so hard for you to picture the blue river
hurtling inside the slow muscled curves of my long body? Is
it too di=icult to believe it is as sacred as a breath or a star or a
sidewinder or your own mother or your lover?
If I could convince you, would our brown bodies and our blue
rivers be more loved and less ruined?
The Whanganui River in New Zealand now has the same
legal rights of a human being. In India, the Ganges and
Yamuna rivers now have the same legal status of a human
being. Slovenia’s constitution now declares access to clean
drinking water to be a national human right. While in the
US, we are tear-gassing and rubber-bulleting and kenneling
natives who are trying to protect their water from pollution
and contamination at Standing Rock in North Dakota. We
have yet to discover what the e=ects of lead-contaminated
water will be on the children of Flint, Michigan, who have
been drinking it for years.
We think of our bodies as being all that we are: I am my body.
This thinking helps us disrespect water, air, land, one another.
But water is not external from our body, our self.
My Elder says: Cut off your ear, and you will live. Cut off your
hand, you will live. Cut off your leg, you can still live. Cut off our
water: we will not live more than a week.
The water we drink, like the air we breathe, is not a part of our
body but is our body. What we do to one — to the body, to the
water — we do to the other.
Toni Morrison writes, All water has a perfect memory and is
forever trying to get back to where it was. Back to the body of
earth, of flesh, back to the mouth, the throat, back to the
womb, back to the heart, to its blood, back to our grief, back
back back to when we were more than we have lately become.
Will we soon remember from where we’ve come? The water.
And once remembered, will we return to that first water,
and in doing so return to ourselves, to each other, better and
Do you think the water will forget what we have done, what
we continue to do?