Thinking Like a River

Confluence brings together river histories and the people who study and write about them throughout North America. This project never assumes that only someone with a PhD should present river history or that there is one way of doing river history, but it does privilege perspectives that highlight the relationship between people and their river. The various storymaps and other formats presented here can hopefully offer inspiration for generating your own projects within your communities whether you are a scholar, environmentalist, community activist, or all of the above. In tandem with this blog post, I’ve launched a new collection of resources that brings together other river histories and archives from across the web. The coming months will also include several new river histories created specifically for this site.

In much of my own work, I return to knowing a river. The title of the documentary I produced on the threatened Neches River over fifteen years ago was called “To Know A River” and this is a major theme in my dissertation on the Trinity River. Certainly, many people come here to learn more about rivers, but creating this project has encouraged me to think like a river and how it creates connections. Confluence generally refers to two or more rivers coming together–rivers unite entire landscapes through their watersheds and the people who live along them. Furthermore, unlike engineered canals, rivers do not make a direct line towards their destination, they meander with confidence knowing they will reach their destination. I’ve tried to mimic these river forms and processes through Confluence and set it up to take on a life of its own, no matter what grants come through or what I do with my career. The success of last fall’s All Water Has a Memory shows the value of bringing in a diverse range of experiences and perspectives even as we seek common ground and a better future. I look forward to continuing to learn from all of you and please feel free to reach out to me directly with ideas for new events and collaborations.