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Why are We Walking for River Rights

The Mississippi River connects us not only as one Quad Cities community, but as one River community from the
headwaters to the Gulf. In this vein, Indigenous-led organization, Great Plains Action Society, has organized the Mississippi River Summit, taking place May 11th-14th in the Quad Cities. It is a summit centering and advancing the leadership of 40 grassroots organizers of historically racially marginalized communities working to protect water, natural places, and sacred spaces. The goal is to build an Indigenous-led coalition from the Mississippi Headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, to eventually claim the Rights of Nature for the river, and to develop an organized frontline group working to protect the Mississippi watershed and all living beings that rely on it as their home.

This push for Rights of Nature is the first of its kind for the Quad Cities, and it represents a very important shift in organizational leadership in addressing the most severe ecological issues facing this region. Iowa is the most biologically colonized state in North America. When stewarded by Indigenous communities, this land was incredibly biodiverse. Today, less than 0.1% of the tallgrass prairie remains, while nearly 70% of the land is used for colonial-capitalist agriculture, over 94% of which is monocultures of corn and soy. These farming practices involve intensive tillage and broad application of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides. Without biodiversity above and below ground, water cannot sink or be held by the soil, which results in massive erosion. Over the past 160 years, 57 billion metric tons of topsoil has been lost, running off into our waterways carrying staggering amounts of fertilizers and pesticides. On top of that, Iowa has the highest number of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the nation, which further devastates our waterways and groundwater. It should come as no surprise that Iowa is the number one contributor to the Dead Zone in the Gulf. We must come together to protect these waters that give us life.

On Saturday, May 13th, we invite the Quad Cities community to join us in solidarity for the Walk for River Rights beginning at 11:30AM at Schwiebert Park in Rock Island, Illinois. We will walk across Centennial Bridge to the Figge entrance plaza, closing at 12:30PM. All are welcomed and encouraged to attend! The event is listed on the Great Plains Action Society’s Facebook Page.