The Animas River provided a sparkling backdrop as an earthy advocacy group led community members in a Saturday afternoon healing ceremony for the Animas.
“We tend to avoid wounded places because they’re ugly, but there’s a chance to go to those places and make beauty,” said Liz Gold, an event organizer. “Everything we do today is about the river.”
The Ground Beneath Our Hearts is a “global spectacle” raising awareness about places around the world impacted by mining and oil and gas development. About 15 of the group’s affiliates and community members gathered in Memorial Park to offer blessings and flowers to the Animas, which turned a sickly orange last month when a Silverton mine spilled acidic wastewater.
A sage cleansing and prayers to the sky and earth opened the ceremony, which included an Ojibwe water song and reflections on the spill.
“I don’t like to pay attention to the politics,” said Rebecca Wildbear. “I have regret I didn’t become more involved until this moment. Mines have been dumping water for a long time, and I believe the river will recover, but this spill woke me up to the facts.”
Life coach and TGBOH affiliate Victoria FittsMilgrim said Saturday for her was about waking up to issues afflicting the environment and taking action.
James Cudworth, a Durango resident, said his grandfather worked at the chemical company in Massachusetts associated with the renowned Woburn toxic waste spill.
“Those workers said, ‘We had no idea.’ These things happen because of corporate greed,” Cudworth said. “It’s important to recognize we had to evolve to get to this point and realize what we’re doing to the environment. These incidents are driven by corporations.”
With handfuls of cornmeal and tobacco – sacred offerings in Native American communities – the group made its way down to the riverbank in silence to reflect on the river.
Local resident Denise Basley brought her young daughter Violet to the park to open her eyes and understand more about the incident.
“I thought it was important for her to be exposed to what’s going on and see the concern the community has for the environment,” she said. “The river is the heart of our town.”