Solstice River XI: Honoring Sacred Sites on the Mississippi


    A ceremony honoring the sacred sites along the Mississippi River blended with the 11th annual Solstice River performance, directed by choreographer Marylee Hardenbergh, artist-in-residence at Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education, on Thursday, June 21.

    Sacred Pipe-Carrier Jeff Grundtner, of Earth Spirit Environments, led a progressive ceremony starting downriver at the site of the mounds at Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul. At least 19 burial mounds originally sat on the high bluff, with some dating back more than 2,000 years. He then led participants upriver to where “the two waters meet,” a second ceremony honoring the sacred site at Pilot Knob, known to Dakota people as Oheyawahi. The nearby mouth of the Minnesota River — Mdote Minisota — was considered to be the center of the world by the Dakota, and the hill was used as a burial place and a place for ceremonies.

    The sacred site ceremony culminated in the evening with Solstice River XI, an annual Solstice River dance performance at the Stone Arch Bridge at the Falls of St. Anthony, a site that was held in reverence by the Dakota Nation. This year’s performance focused on creating beauty at the site, and honoring the sacred land. Dancers moved on the dike of the lock, the banks and mooring cells, high up on grain silos, and on the rooftops of other buildings in the downtown skyline, with movement and fabric making a panoramic splash. A bevy of kayaks pirouetted for the audience. At the conclusion of the performance, the audience was invited to participate in the “Blue Highway,” during which a 1,200-foot length of blue fabric was unfurled across the Stone Arch Bridge. The music, written especially for the dance at the site, was composed by J. David Moore, and it was simulcast by KBEM 88.5 FM.

    Solstice River XI was presented by the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the University of Minnesota’s Hydrology Laboratory, the Mill City Museum, and the Guthrie Theater.

    Photos © Copyright by Amanda Schwengel:
    (Top) Dancers in the Mill Ruins Park near the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam during the 11th annual Solstice River performance in Minneapolis.
    (Center) “Blue Highway” — A 1,200-foot length of blue fabric was unfurled across the Stone Arch Bridge
    (Bottom) Dancers high on the Gold Medal Flour silos spell out "Mitakuye oyasin," the Dakota words that mean "All my relations."

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    Tim Miejan
    Tim Miejan is a writer who served as former editor and publisher of The Edge for twenty-five years. Contact him at [email protected].


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