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.