Written By: Kevin Alcaide
“One does not sell the Earth, upon which people walk” (Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota War Chief, 1875).
The YAOTL group visited a prairie preserve by Ashland and 55th, in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. The purpose of the trip was to learn the History of the Chicago River. Adam Kessler, our tour guide, from the Al Raby/American Indian Center, explained reasons why the river is dark and polluted.
“Our water is supposedly clean but they put a lot of chemicals in our water”, said Carolina Macias a member of YAOTL. As told by Adam Kessler, and validated as the history of the Chicago river, a place once filled with swamps, naturally filtrating the water along with the help of other plants. However, the Europeans overlooked the essence of the swamps and prairie lands. Only viewing the land as profit, consequently raping the earth, destroying its natural cycle, along with nature’s balance.
“The Europeans thought the swamps were disgusting, that it smelled bad and had to fix it”, said Adam Kessler.
Once pollution became more pervasive, and people began to get sick, something had to be done.
“It would go to their water they would drink it and get sick”, responded Viviana Galvan member of the YAOTL group.
Adam informed us about how action was taken by draining the river and excavating it. The water would flow the opposite way and not continue to further pollute lake Michigan. Changing the river’s natural flow seemed to benefit at the time. In order to look good and prosper, we couldn’t allow pollution to diminish that.
“It was not a nice view, they wanted to go against nature, completely turning around its natural flow”, said Carolina Macias (YAOTL).
She argued that the Europeans had no environmental/health concerns, and didn’t think about the future effects, of which we deal with today. Part of the tour included background on herbs and weeds used for remedies. For example, Echinacea can be used to aid a toothache, and Rose Hips as antioxidant source.
“It is good to learn how to use plants for medicinal use, and maintain the natural ecosystem” Said Hannah Weinstein, who is also part of the YAOTL group.
Creating riverbanks high up from the river restrained plants to be able to filtrate the waters from the river.
“It is important to grow plants along the river, they are essential to the life that lives there, some help keep water clean and its part of the ecological cycle” said Brenda Elizabeth Becerra from YAOTL .
Many things are causing the river to be polluted, including those canals and bridges built long ago. In order to avoid pollution, or in other words, move pollution elsewhere, the river’s natural flow was altered. Consequently, Europeans became terrorist to the natives, throwing them out of their land, killing families, and selling land for profit.