Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fun on the River

Dragon Boat on the St. Joseph River
Hello Everyone!  My name is Dion Wright and I am an undergraduate student at WMU majoring in Criminal Justice and Anthropology.  I am currently enrolled in Dr. Nassaney’s class “Anthropology in the Community” (ANTH 5030) and in the class we have selected different topics to research pertaining to the St. Joseph River.  Some students are looking at various forms of transportation, Native uses of the river, and the way industry has relied on the river.  I have been tasked with highlighting recreational uses of the St. Joseph River and I can say the river has a lot to offer.  We have gained our knowledge through various means, including oral accounts, town histories, independent studies, speaking with community partners, visiting museums, reviewing published accounts and more. 

While conducting my research I have found that the river provides a multitude of fun and exciting opportunities.  Anyone is welcome to enjoy the benefits of the river in terms of fishing, casually observing, or even having a picnic along the river.  While those are some events that can occur among family and friends, there is also an annual community event called “Trails and Ales” that provides an excellent opportunity to partake in activities in and along the river and allows citizens of Niles to meet others in the community.  Trails and Ales is an event in Niles(formally known as “Riverfest”) that host activities such as fishing contests, dragon boat races, barbecue contests, car shows and more.  Whether you’re looking for a great bonding opportunity amongst family, fun with friends, looking to meet other citizens of Niles, or looking for a place to enjoy the company of a date, the St. Joseph River provides ample opportunity for just that.  With that said, if you are a member of the Niles community I strongly encourage you to visit the St. Joseph River at your earliest convenience as many fun and memorable experiences await you!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

History Loves Company

My name is Meg Truesdell. Like the other contributors to this blog, I am a student at Western Michigan University. I am a senior with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Global Studies. This semester my classmates and I are authoring informational panels that illustrate the many aspects of the St. Joseph River and the surrounding community of Niles, MI. The panels will be presented to the public in August of 2016. It has become clear throughout the semester that the Niles area is rich with history especially surrounding Fort St. Joseph.

Absorbing history about the area has been a delightful part of the required research that myself and my group mates, Antonio Wheeler and Dion Wright, have been conducting. Our group, however, is responsible for educating the public about the contemporary uses of the River. We have been focusing on three areas specifically: Water quality, energy and dam usage on the river, and recreational uses of the river.

Commemorative Boulder at Fort St. Joseph 
On Monday evening I took a drive to Niles with the intention of doing some exploring. Explore, I did. I had the opportunity to read the Michigan Historic Site plaque about Fort St. Joseph, see Father Allouez’s memorial, and also to get a closer look at the Niles dam and the hydroelectric power plant attached to it. Though I was only immersed in the community of Niles for a short evening, I left with a very clear sense of how Niles’ rich history has shaped many contemporary aspects of the community.

Though it was a chilly evening, I saw people walking along the river and taking in the sights. The dam was raging with water being condensed and directed to the plant which powers the French Paper Company, just as it has since 1871, providing jobs and industry in the community from historical times to now.

The contemporary uses of the St. Joseph River are varied and many. Each use is undeniably and directly linked to the vivid history of the area. I don’t know about you, but that sure makes me want to learn more!

Tune in in August to do just that.

- Meg Truesdell