In 1834, Waapinaakikaapwa related the Miami people’s origin story to Jacob P. Dunn: “Mihtami Myaamiaki nipinkonci saakaciweeciki / At first the Miamis came out of the water…”
Hoosiers, too, are the people who came out of the water. The earliest pre-historic settlements we know of were sited near rivers, including mounds near the Ohio River in Vanderburgh and Warrick Counties and along the White River in Madison County. White settlers also followed rivers, first down the Ohio, then up the Wabash and the White, and along the St. Joseph and Maumee and others. In the 1830s, around the time the Miami origin story was recorded, we decided to build our own rivers—an ambitious canal-building craze that wound up bankrupting the state. One hundred years ago, some of the first conservationists in the nation sought to protect the shores along Lake Michigan, while fifty years ago, in Muncie, the visionary John M. Craddock embarked on an effort to restore the White River in Delaware County, now considered the state’s longest-running and most successful water clean-up project. And today, water is the life force that underlays Indiana’s agricultural bounty, while ports along Lake Michigan and the Ohio River connect us to the wider world.
We are indeed people who come out of water.
There’s every reason to believe that Indiana’s future is as tied to water as our past has been. So it makes sense that we learn about our waterways and reflect on the ways we use them. The humanities—disciplines like literature and poetry, history and ethics, as well as activities like critical reading, open-ended conversation and storytelling—help us do so.
Over the last year, Indiana Humanities has focused its award-winning Next Indiana Campfires program on the White River watershed and the larger question of how Hoosiers relate to water and to each other across watersheds. We’ve hiked and paddled the river and its feeder creeks, learning about the efforts to restore and conserve one of our state’s most significant waterways and considering how it connects urban, suburban and rural Hoosiers.
To explore these connections further—and to document a particularly exciting moment for Indiana waterways—we also funded the creation of three short films about the White River. We selected three local storytellers and asked them to tell us surprising stories about Central Indiana’s most important river.
Though each distinct, all three films tell stories of “people who come out of the water” today. You’ll meet volunteers, artists, activists, farmers, engineers, developers, city officials, hikers and parents. You’ll paddle downstream with Friends of the White River, tunnel under the city with Dig Indy, and soar overhead with the great blue herons of our region.
Again and again, you’ll see views of the river and perspectives on Marion and Hamilton Counties you never knew existed. We hope these films awaken new appreciation of the White River and spark meaningful conversations about its future.
Meet the filmmakers:
- Braided with the Current by Hodges Marketing Solutions: Hannah Hodges co-founded and runs Hodges Marketing Solutions, a digital marketing agency, with her husband Mark. She is involved in the Indianapolis film community and has a variety of experience ranging from work on documentaries and narrative shorts to corporate videos and live events. Most of her favorite moments, both personally and professionally, occur outside enjoying nature. Katelyn Calhoun has spent the past five years in Indianapolis creating documentary content. Her most recent work includes the NUVO Newsweekly webseries Day Drinking with Rita, coverage of the Mohican 100 Trail Run, and assisting in the edit of Mabingwa, a documentary about environmental conservation in Kenya. She is currently in pre-production for an Appalachian Trail short documentary, (Tr)alias.
- Onward Ever: The Becoming of Indiana’s White River by Brandon Walsh: Brandon Walsh is an Indy-based video producer. His narrative short films have screened at a number of festivals across the Midwest, and he has made national award-winning commercial work with the advertising agency CVR.
- White River: Perspectives by Hannah Lindgren: Hannah is a visual storyteller hailing from the northeast side of Indianapolis. She works at The Story Shop in Pendleton and specializes in telling the stories of nonprofits, causes, small businesses and communities through short videos. This is her fourth documentary film.
RSVP for one or more of the launch parties, where we’ll screen the films, hold a Q&A with the directors, and enjoy snacks and beers compliments of Upland Brewing:
Starting in March, you can watch the full-length films online and download a discussion toolkit to talk about them with your neighbors, students, friends and family. We’ll also be offering stipends to community groups who host public screenings and discussions of the films in 2019 and 2020.
We are grateful for the generous support of Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This initiative was made possible in part through the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative of the Pulitzer Prizes.