Siipiiwi by poet Kevin McKelvey

This weekend the annual Miami powwow is assembling in Columbia City.  Below is

Hoosier poet Kevin McKelvey’s delightful reflection on untouched rivers.


—the Miami Indian word for river

River, río, riparian—who first spoke “Ri”
at a large flowing expanse of water
and understood the response?
In vulgar Latin or Old French,
how did water say water?
how did eddy say eddy?
Every Gaul and Roman uttered “Ri”
as fields creeped closer to banks
and trees disappeared.

The Miami knew untouched rivers,
the Waa-paah-siki, the Bright White River,
not this silted, polluted flow.
They knew the Kingfisher’s call,
the heron’s spearing bill,
the trolling pike and muskellunge
in the clear water,
the limestone bottoms’ gurgle,
and they knew the river water lapped against
rooted and tangled banks, shaded—siipiiwi.

Herald Bulletin creates an environmental news beat

Scott Underwood column: THB develops environmental reporting beat

  • By Scott Underwood | The Herald Bulletin
  • Jul 11, 2016

Agricultural practices. Air pollution. Invasive species. Land use. Recycling. Water quality. Wind farms.

Our lives and the world around us are constantly changing as issues affecting the environment evolve. To address these concerns, The Herald Bulletin is devoting more resources to environmental reporting.

A few months ago, we began publishing a weekly column, “On Nature,” written by founders of the Heart of the River Coalition. These columns, published Mondays, seek to inform the community about the natural world around us. (Look for Carol Emmert’s “On Nature” column in today’s newspaper and at

To push our reporting significantly forward, we’ve created a beat to cover the environment. Staff reporter Christopher Stephens has been assigned to that beat. Look for his article about wind farm rezoning in The Herald Bulletin this coming weekend and more reporting from him on environmental topics as summer marches toward fall.

Our reporting on the environment is part of an effort by the 13 Hoosier newspapers in our company, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI), to develop beats that address readers’ common interests and concerns across Indiana.

The two other beats are health care and education. While The Herald Bulletin takes the lead in environmental reporting, the Kokomo Tribune will spearhead the statewide health care beat and the Terre Haute Tribune-Star will take on statewide education reporting. These articles, coming in a weekly rotation, will be part of a continuing “Indiana In-Depth” reporting effort.

In addition to the environment beat, Stephens also covers the business beat and towns in the (roughly) southern Madison County area, including Edgewood, Ingalls, Lapel, Markleville and Pendleton.

Here’s a rundown of our other reporters’ beats, some of which have changed recently:

• Rebecca Bibbs has moved to the local education beat and will also cover cities and towns in the (roughly) northern Madison County area, including Alexandria, Chesterfield, Daleville, Elwood, Frankton and Summitville.

• Ken de la Bastide reports on Anderson city and Madison County government and is our lead reporter on politics and news out of state and federal government.

• Kelly Dickey reports on features, entertainment and lifestyles topics.

• Devan Filchak covers health and social issues, and is our lead reporter on police, fire and emergency response news most mornings.

• Stu Hirsch has moved to the public safety beat, meaning he’s our lead reporter on courts, as well as police, fire and emergency response news most afternoons and evenings.

All of our reporters focus on their beats, developing articles that lend insight into trends and issues. But each is also a general assignment reporter; they tackle the news of the day and routinely fill in for reporters on other beats.

If you have story ideas for any of our beats, don’t hesitate to contact our reporters. All of their email addresses are first name.last Or you can send your story ideas to me, whether they relate to the environment or any other subject matter of local concern.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @THBeditor. Contact him at or 640-4845.

On Nature column: Enjoy the songs and beauty of White River warblers

On Nature column: Enjoy the songs and beauty of White River warblers

  • By Kevin Tungesvick | For The Herald Bulletin
  • May 2, 2016

Each year, the spring migration of songbirds to their summer breeding range reaches a peak when over 30 species of warblers pass through Indiana in early to mid-May.

Most North American warblers are neo-tropical migrants, wintering in the tropics of Central and South America and returning to North America each summer to breed. Their colorful plumage and active foraging habits make this group a favorite among birders.

While many species continue their migration north to Canada’s extensive boreal forests, over a dozen species breed in Indiana. Three of these local breeders may be heard and observed in the woodlands bordering White River. These three species, the northern parula, the yellow-throated warbler, and the Louisiana waterthrush arrive earlier than the migratory peak, typically reaching east central Indiana in the first three weeks of April.

The northern parula is a small colorful warbler that typically forages high in the canopy, preferring sycamore trees in our area. The male has bluish-gray wings and tail feathers with a yellow throat and breast interrupted by a black and a chestnut band. The female has only a hint of the darker breast bands. Both sexes have white wing bars, a yellow-green patch on their back and a white belly. The song of the northern parula consists of an ascending series of buzzy notes that drops to an abrupt ending note.

The yellow-throated warbler is also typically found in sycamores along White River. It has a bluish-gray back, white wing bars and a yellow throat but lacks the breast bands of the northern parula. The bold black and white facial pattern and the black streaks on the sides of the breast further differentiate this species from the previous one. This species has a distinctive foraging habit of creeping along large tree limbs, not unlike the white-breasted nuthatches that frequent our bird feeders. Their song consists of a series of similar slurred notes that descend and weaken toward the end.

The distinctive Louisiana waterthrush is found along clear wooded streams. They may be easily found along the spring-fed streams in the deep ravines at Mounds State Park. Their plumage is very thrush-like with a brown back and wings and a spotted white breast. Unlike our true thrushes, there is a prominent white line above the eye. The Louisiana waterthrush forages on the ground along streams, walking with a distinctive gait that includes incessant tail-bobbing. It feeds on aquatic invertebrates plucked from the shallow water. This foraging habit makes it easier to observe than the other two species. Its song starts with slurred notes resembling that of the yellow-throated warbler, but rather than weakening, it ends in an emphatic jumble of notes. All three of these species may be heard singing in their breeding territories from late April through July.


Herald Bulletin’s “On Nature” column: Making the rounds for a Circle Mound equinox sunrise

By Eliot Reed | For The Herald Bulletin

On Nature: Making the rounds for a Circle Mound equinox sunrise

Peeking over the eastern horizon, the sun’s light pierces a stand of trees in the distance.

As the sun climbs higher in the morning sky, the trees that tower over Circle Mound catch the light and glow golden and green. With the sun slowly rising higher, the bowing trees and gateway of Circle Mound frame in the sun. For more than 2,000 years the sun has risen in perfect alignment, marking the end of one season and the beginning of another.

For the past four years, I have visited Circle Mound on the spring and fall equinox to see this phenomenon for myself. As a landscape photographer I have traveled all over the country taking photographs of wild and vast landscapes — volcanoes and glaciers, salt flats and dunes — but it was a trip to Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado where my outlook on landscape photography changed.

Circle Mound is different from most of the other earthworks found in Mounds Park — for one thing, it’s not a circle at all. While it does have rounded corners, Circle Mound is actually rectangular in shape, stretching 285 feet in length and 225 feet across. Surrounded by a 30-foot wide ditch, the central platform of the structure measures 148 feet long and 72 feet wide. The gateway faces due east and was originally flanked by two smaller mounds that have been greatly reduced in size by plowing, as this area of the park was once cultivated. The western end sits high atop a bluff overlooking the White River.

Circle Mound is the only visible rectangular structure of the three discovered in the park. Earthwork G is buried in the campground area and Earthwork F has been severely damaged by cultivation and the construction of a county road. Very little is known about the activities that occurred at Circle Mound and the other rectangular structures. Most of the archeology done at Mounds State Park has occurred at the circular earthworks – the Great Mound enclosure, Fiddleback, and a few small adjacent structures.

Eliot Reed, an Anderson native, is the owner of Park Place Arts, a custom frame shop and art gallery in Anderson. He is a founding director of Heart of the River Coalition. “On Nature” is published Mondays

“Real protest ain’t playin”

Pasted below is an excellent opinion piece by retired Indianapolis Star columnist Dan Carpenter.


Real protest ain’t playin’


January 5, 2016 8:34 PM

To believe in America is to believe in the courts, the election process, administrative recourse and peaceful protest outside those provisions.

To be patriotic is to hold sacred the stewardship of both private property and public land.

All of that perfectly describes the legions of Hoosiers who have been fighting since well back in the past century the blatant, devastating boondoggle known as the expansion of I-69 through the southwestern quadrant of the state.

It distinguishes them. And it differentiates them from the gun-brandishing scofflaws who make headlines by staging playground takeovers of the people’s property on the premise that the Constitution entitles them to exploit it for selfish gain.

Many of the I-69 resisters have lost their family homes and businesses to a “public” project drummed up to serve those who would sweep aside rural life and natural treasures for fleeting profit. The privatizers, the same guys the “militia” men ally with, are the enemies of these good folks. So is government in this instance — a real enemy, not a Darth Vader fantasy. Deaf to the people’s voice.

So they’ve fought — through lawsuit after lawsuit, hearing after hearing, demonstration after demonstration, study after authoritative study, thousands upon thousands of signatures on petitions. The multi-billion-dollar behemoth has ground on in spite of them, but so has the battle — by the rules. Any guns, any violence, any death threats, any acts of eco-terrorist sabotage have been mere specks in the decades of struggle, to the extent they’ve occurred at all.

This is patriotism. This is paying the price of citizenship. This is standing up for the rights of the individual and the sacred value of the land that native Americans can tell us nobody owns. It’s hard work. It takes guts. It shames the lawless and the law enforcers alike.

Winona LaDuke: common people protecting the heart of America

While the CED regroups and finagles (presumably) following the recent Delaware County down votes, Heart of the River participants have been able to catch their breath and do some light reading among delightful outdoor pursuits during this run of beautiful fall weather.

The following passage is from Tim Palmer’s great book The Heart of America— Our Landscape, Our Future.  It’s from his final chapter—America in the 21st Century in which he suggests new approaches to land and water protection.  It resonates in several ways.

“Taking hope from the changes occurring in a movement that’s evolving among people of all races and backgrounds, American Indian activist Winona LaDuke wrote:

Across the continent, on the shores of small tributaries, in the shadows of sacred mountains, on the vast expanse of the prairies, or in the safety of the woods, prayers are being repeated, as they have been for thousands of years, and common people with uncommon courage and the whispers of their ancestors in their ears continue their struggles to protect the land and water and trees on which their very existence is based.  And like small tributaries joining together to form a mighty river, their force and power grows.  The river will not be damned. “



Celebration at a sacred place by White River

Heart of the River convened a small celebration gathering at Mounds State Park on a beautiful afternoon this past Sunday.  We enjoyed a cookout and inspirational fire circle next to the river.  We wanted to promptly celebrate the recent down votes of the proposed Mounds Lake Commission by the Town Council’s of Daleville and Yorktown. A larger celebration will be planned in the future.

The fire circle conversation was very inspiring.   Threatened home- and land-owners expressed great joy and relief.  Individuals and coalition participants from some of our supporting organizations commented on the efforts, stakes, and result.

There was also discussion about the future.  Will the recent victories stand— will the Corporation for Economic Development accept the defeat or might it seek to somehow revive the plan via political finagling?  How might the river and greenbelt, and the awe and joy which they engender, be protected in the years ahead?  Many ideas were offered.

The fire circle was informal, but it was initiated and concluded by brief readings aloud from two prominent authors who have written (and advocated) often about the need for preservation of our natural heritage.  As an invocation, a passage from James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom’s Warrior Woman was read aloud.  The passage described a grand council (for treaty talks) of tribal leaders and military officers, brought together in Pittsburg in September, 1775 during the time when settlement and land-lust was directly endangering indigenous lands, lives, and cultures.  It’s peaceful tone and imagery were especially fitting for our occasion:

The Flowing-Together-Place–

“The Shawnee people knew that the Tapistemawigi-sipe, Where-the-Rivers-Meet, there is a strong spirit force, and people like to live there.  In such places, events flow together, as do the waters down from the hills, and so these are important places.  The Delaware called this Menach-sink, the Flowing-Together-Place…. 

It seemed to Nonhelema (Shawnee chief) that all was right, as good as it could be.  She felt that true peace could begin here, in this place. 

She closed her eyes and took slow breaths, and she could feel that this was the good center of everything, the place from which peace would move outward, like ripples on water when one raindrop falls upon it. 

It felt as if this round arbor with tables, chairs, a keg, and a council fire in the center, here at the sacred and powerful old place, … Where-The-Rivers-Meet, had filled her with strength and wisdom.  Her own heartbeat felt like a drum. 

Good people around, with good intentions. Och-quo-tee, noolech-tomeepeh, wawha-eeakee, wewshe-t’heekee, skota, she prayed in pictures: Clear sky, smooth water, sacred circle, well-meaning people, fire.”

To close the fire circle, a poignant call by Scott Russell Sanders was read aloud.  (Mr. Sanders presented an afternoon of river readings and comments at our January 24th gathering).

“We need to resist attacks on air, soil, water, and wild lands.  But we also need to change our culture, not just our leaders and technology.   We need to speak out and act for more conserving, more sustainable, more peaceful and more just practices in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and our public assemblies.  We must refuse to shut up, refuse to give up, in the face of corporate consumerism and a mass culture peddling the narcotics of entertainment.  We need to articulate and demonstrate a more decent and joyous way of life.”  Scott Russell Sanders,  Grist Magazine  3-11-05


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