Ottaway River, USA - Frank Dituri

My Watermark is the Ottaway River in Traverse City, Michigan that is connected to the Waikato River in New Zealand.

I work for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in the Natural Resource Department as a Wetland Ecologist Project Manager. I’m also the Implementation Team Chairman for Michigan’s largest dam removal project. I actually live on the river that we’re restoring; I live about half way through the project and I’ve lived on this river for 30 years. But my water-related story has to do with some place quite far away.

We travelled to the north island of New Zealand with our tribal members (our councillors) and we explored the restoration projects of the Maori tribe. In New Zealand, something I learned when I was there, is that when you look at a river, that river has the same rights as a living being. Some of those court challenges we’ve seen over the years in the United States, they’ve actually been adjudicated in the river’s favour in New Zealand, which is really interesting. Now that river gets to be represented in a court of law on its own accord, not just because of its use by humans.

More than anything, my water story is when we were there, we grew very close to the Maori folks, and it was explained to me that water was not only a living river there but extends throughout the planet. When we were standing in the water one day, and Ashley Turner, a biologist from the Maori tribe said, anytime you ever want to feel connected to us in New Zealand, or anytime they want to feel connected to us, just step in the water and touch it. It’s all connected, we’re all connected by the water, and I use that constantly. As soon as I my hand touches the surface of moving water, I think of our connection across the planet to folks dealing with the same restoration activities. Water is life.

I live on the Boardman River and it’s the focus of this (restoration) project. It was named the Boardman River in about 1852 and Captain Boardman came in about 1858, cut down all the trees within 150 miles, and then left. It had been called the Ottaway River before. There are some grassroots efforts from the bottom-up to maybe bring back that name as a result of the implementation of the River Restoration Project. The Boardman River is a wonderful clearwater, cold water system in Northwestern Lower Michigan.

Having that connection across the planet with someone is pretty incredible. I don’t think about it when I’m looking at water out of a faucet, but every time I step into a river or moving water, it’s pretty amazing. These people consider water to be their grandmother, as a family member. It’s a pretty cool way to look at a resource. To feel solidarity across the planet through water, because we are all connected to it.

Ottaway River, USA
Matthew Chisholm
Frank Dituri

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