What are your plans for World Fish Migration Day? You know, May 21, when people who care about rivers and fish around the world create celebrations along their river to honor the life of the river and the fish that move up and down it. There will be hundreds of celebrations on every continent in the world including the celebration of the Royal River in Yarmouth at Royal River Park.

People participating in Fish Migration Day in Yarmouth on the Royal River will be invited to consider the river as it has been, how it is now and what we can do for its health and well-being in the future. Opportunities to learn about the river will abound. Stories, speakers and guides will discuss life in and along it, people, plants and animals, from the days when the Wabanaki (meaning People of the Dawn, a people composed of many tribes), still here today, were caring for these lands, to the days of European settlements and industrialization to the postindustrial period of today.

I am particularly glad that John Bear Mitchell and Karyn Marden, members of the Wabanaki community, will be with us sharing their stories and knowledge. Native American spirituality and my own nature mystic Christianity teach me that the land, the waters and all forms of life are sacred.

I was introduced to this wisdom by John Waters, in his book “The Man Who Killed a Deer.” He tells a story of the Pueblo people of the American Southwest and their hunting ritual. When a hunter comes upon a deer, he acknowledges its sacredness and asks permission to take its life for the life of his people. He pledges to honor the deer with gratitude and the continuation of its sacred life in the life of the hunter and his tribe.

Europeans came to the shores of Maine, then a part of Massachusetts, to harvest the resources, cod, timber, whatever. Their rituals were spoken to an almighty God thought of as above them on a hierarchical ranking. What was harvested was below them. The worth of life below them was objectified as things, not sacred, and was calculated by what it provided them and theirs. This is the mindset that ultimately led to global warming. Of course, that was far beyond their horizon then.

In addition to Wabanaki spokespersons sharing stories and knowledge, Katie Worthing of the Yarmouth Historical Society will conduct a tour of the bones of industrialization to be found on the river today. She will tell how the town as we know it grew around industrialization and where industrialization went when it left. Landis Hudson of Maine Rivers will conduct a tour of the river today, its dams, their fish ladders that don’t work and consider, with you, what the river would be if fish could migrate on it today.


Yarmouth’s Merrill Memorial Library will have books about rivers for children. Classes from Yarmouth schools and North Yarmouth Academy will have tables to show you what they have been studying about the river. Environmental groups will be there to tell of their work.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will release 600 brown trout, half below the Elm Street dam and half below the Bridge Street dam. There will be 50 fishing poles for kids and people to help bait the hooks and conduct a catch and release learning project. Trout Unlimited will conduct a class in fly fishing for the first eight Yarmouth area women who sign up by calling Maura Halkiotis at 841-3327. There will be canoe rides and food, face painting and music.

What time and why? From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 21, answers the first question. The reason for the event is summarized in our working sheet: 1) To connect people to the Royal River, past present and future. 2) To raise awareness and caring for the river’s life – fish, plants, recreation and state of health. 3) To provide entertainment, education and fun for all ages.

Finally, why is this a column on the Religion and Values page of today’s paper? Because I am convinced that, as we come to understand the Earth and all life upon it as sacred, we will not only ask how the river can serve our lives but how can we serve the life of the river. When we grow in spirit to ask that question instinctively, we will be on the road away from environmental degradation and global warming.

Bill Gregory is an author and retired UCC minister. He can be contacted at: wgregor1@maine.rr.com.

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