The Mississippi – A journey through the heart of America | DW Documentary

The Mississippi – A journey through the heart of America | DW Documentary

The Mississippi – A journey through the heart of America | DW Documentary

The Mississippi stretches from the glacial lakes in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. For many Americans, the mighty, almost 4,000-kilometer-long river is closely linked to the nation’s history.

People have lived along these riverbanks for several thousand years. Today, the river unites many different cultures and is considered the soul of America. When the Europeans arrived, they colonized the land here, killing and displacing the indigenous peoples. But before that, the Choctaw people lived between present-day Memphis and the mouth of the river near New Orleans. Today, their descendants form the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
But these central American regions have an image problem. “Flyover states” – places that you only fly over – has become a catchphrase. But if you take a closer look, you’ll discover small and large wonders here, including unique cultures and almost overwhelming nature, as well as old traditions imbued with new life.
Many things are being rediscovered on the banks of the Mississippi, including voodoo in New Orleans. Voodoo has been at home here for a long time and no longer needs to hide itself. Formerly demonized, people are now looking more and more respectfully at the religion.
The film takes us on a journey from the birthplace of rock’n’roll, Memphis, to the mighty delta of the Mississippi.

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Video Transcript

The Mississippi River America’s lifeblood a mighty waterway that still holds many Secrets settlements have called the banks of the river home for thousands of years many different cultures live here but they’re all Americans from members of the choor tribes to a group of unique Cowboys the Delta Hill Riders the Mississippi River is intriguing from the land Water and

Air a journey through the soul of America Today is a special day for pton and Jace members of the chock Tor people their tribe has lived along the banks of the Mississippi River for centuries they’re headed for a place that’s sacred to the chock Tor an anci icient earthwork Mound built by indigenous people around 400

CE the two young men will take part in a Coming of Age ritual at the site this is uh the NW Mound it’s a very special place for us and we’re just excited to be here they’ll perform a dance and the Elder will say a few

Words I’m glad you guys are here Young people that uh we can teach you and you guys learn the the our ways keep our ways going uh I am very proud and honored that uh our mother Mound is still here and we can still keep the honor and tradition going we’re honored

To be here n wire lies at the edge of a sacred choor site the area is characterized by water and swamps At its heart lies the most sacred place the Nani Cave chuor legend has it that this is the birthplace of humanity where people first emerged onto the surface of the Earth other tribes then migrated in all directions only the chock Tor remained choosing to stay close to the mother Mound I thank you young people for coming we carry a great spirit in us and it’s up to us to pass it on I thank you for everything you’ve learned don’t forget it wherever your feet touch the Earth never forget where you come from I thank

You much of their culture was lost when the chock was suppressed by European settlers even the origin of the chuor name is uncertain though some believe it’s derived from the words for River People the chor were driven off their land in the 19th century and could only remain if they agreed to become American citizens families were then allotted a plot of land to work according to European norms pton and his father demanded are descendants from these chock Tor people they’re ending the special day by

Fishing Together I am proud to be a Chu doll Mr van Chans I am proud because we still learn about our cultures and traditions and mostly where we came from the chock tour were granted their own reservation in 19 45 now they also have the right to self-governance Chua is uh

Represented um throughout Indian cultures um Mississippi band of Chua Indians uh was uh recognized back in early uh 1900s uh I believe that uh Miss Mississippi Chua was involved here uh from the Dancing Rabbit um uh treater through the CS of tears and um I’m glad that our ancestors had uh evolved here

And um I’m proud that we are still here and they’re not going anywhere the Mississippi chuor reservation covers about 140 sare km in 10 different rural areas in the state the Mississippi River is nearly 4,000 km long and while it’s the country’s most important river it’s not the longest

Memphis Tennessee and New Orleans Louisiana are two key cities in the Lower Mississippi Delta which ends at the river’s mouth Memphis is the gateway to the southern course of the Mississippi and is named after the ancient Egyptian City of Memphis once the gateway to the Nile

Delta the name led to the selection of a glass pyramid as a new Landmark but for most Memphis still stands for blues and rock and roll and Beal Street is the heart of its music scene the careers of many Stars began here Louie Armstrong Johnny Cash

And of course the king of rock and roll Elvis Presley Singer Naomi Taylor dreams of having a career like their she’s performing in Memphis for the very first time there’s a special Spirit here um just with art in general all forms of art music visual art um dance everything there’s just I feel like there’s a it’s in the

Air the city sets high expectations on musicians Naomi’s brought along her good luck charm her guitar this was my grandfather’s guitar he passed away this past year but he was in a sibling band where he traveled with his brothers and sisters and played together um and he’s the only other

Musician in the family that really took it seriously and took it professionally so um he passed it down to me I guess to carry on his legacy which is really cool Naomi is also playing in a bar on Beal Street the tin roof will anyone come to watch her play

What are her dreams for the future in 10 years I I hope to um I hope to play to a lot of people I hope to get my music out there and just travel and play music that’s all I want to [Applause] [Applause] do the conversation in the back seat baby we got other things to do we’ll Circle back to when may one of these days [Applause] it the tin roof is filling up Naomi’s got a [Applause] crowd she survived her baptism by fire in Memphis musicians perform through the night in bars on Beal Street but Dawn is already breaking back at the chock tour Reservation the state of Mississippi is celebrating its Native American peoples and their Heritage with American Indian day it’s also an important day for the moris family so mica’s mother tells her to hurry up in chock Tour okay Mica is taking part in the chock tor’s annual High School princess pageant f m that’s and a little bit nervous too and this is the first time they ever did an onstage question during the American Indian princess pageant too so I got prepared for d so I’ll just keep

Practicing more about it her mother Demetria is a former princess and now Malica hopes to carry on the Tradition the moris family like most of the tribe have a good life on the reservation having the right to operate a casino gives the chock Tor some Financial Security they also have their own police force court system and fire department mica’s High School home to this year’s princess pageant also benefits from the Casino pton who had his Coming of Age ceremony yesterday was last year’s Prince Malica asks him for some tips honestly just going out there having fun and being your it’s all it is then it’s mica’s turn her mother has spent months making mica’s dress will all the effort pay Off the event starts at the sports field the way most chocked tour events do with traditional Dancers Mica and her fellow contestants are being judged by the reigning prince and princess as well as a jury each girl must give a speech most important thing about being choco is our culture our culture makes us who we are as Chile people from COA outside cooking and shakala egby

Bead work is a tradition that’s been pass down for so many generations and I thank you will the jury be impressed by mica’s use of CH she was the only one to speak in anything but English American Indian Day High School princess and that is going to be contested number 11 Miss Malica Ray Morris they were maybe future contestants will be encouraged to use more chor in their Speeches the American Indian Day festivities are winding down after a day full of Native American tradition pton and his friends celebrate with another American tradition hamburgers and Coke bacon we Native Americans are still American and we do have the American of food Burgers pizzas chicken fries and coke just as regular Americans

Personally I enjoy the n tradition more cuz that fried bread CH maybe Payton’s generation will take the best of these traditions and create new ones unique to the young chock tors of Mississippi the land that would later become the state of Mississippi was settled by Europeans in the late 17th and 18th centuries they brought their own culture and customs with them and built European style houses many of those living in the Lower Mississippi Delta still take pride in preserving some of those Traditions Julie boek nicknamed Mustang Julie hopes to be part of a classic car show today but her car’s brakes are jammed and it won’t start Her husband Tom is lending a hand of the guys uh they think I’m kind of an anomaly uh because a lot of their wives don’t jump in and work on the cars or they work on their own car uh I know one gal who won’t even pump her own gas burn

Julie needs to be on the road in 3 hours or risk missing the show she and her husband don’t collect just any old cars they see their automotive restoration as an act of patriotism the old cars are part of our heritage and it shows how far we’ve

Come uh I I mean you see a teab bucket rooster clicking down the road you know or like chitty chitty bang bang or you see one of these and you know it just brings back memories to people the Ford Model A was part of efforts to bring

Mobility to the American masses in the late 1920s but’ 60s models hold a special place in this couple’s hearts in 1969 you’ll notice we’ve got a 69 Corvette and a 69 Mustang that was the year of loud and Fast you know that was the year we landed on the moon that was

The year that America was at its truly greatest and uh I I I think America is going to be great again you know we’re bringing back the muscle car thank goodness show here we go yeah Julie hopes they’ve fixed all the problems she’s ready to roll dressed as if it was still the

60s we’re caught in a trap I can’t walk out because I love you too much baby why can’t you see what’s it doing to me last year we uh brought our 1930 Model A and our 1930 Model A we ended up winning People’s Choice so that was Exciting Julie could be on route to picking up another award this year but then she SM smells trouble uh we have a little bit of a burnt smell so we’re going to it smells like something might be burning so we’re going to stop and check it

Out is the car show over for Julie before it began okay so the brakes are a little hot um but I think we’ll make it to the show I’m going to pump the brakes a little bit on the way there and see if I can loosen things up because I love you

Too much baby All the good spots are already taken by the time she arrives we made It it’s a very patriotic show it’s at ke Air Force based for military and so usually people display the American flag American cars from the 1950s 60s and’ 70s all have some things in common their size and their love of Gasoline Julie first checks out the Competition the other Mustangs look pretty cool too Julie often stands out more than her car does she have a shot at a prize all right for the last award goes out to number 29 69 Camaro Bill Milligan 1969 the year it took it that’s awesome and it was a great show beautiful cars

Once again congratulations to everyone thank you for coming out that’s okay last year the ladies took it so it’s okay Julie knows that more and more women are becoming hob mechanics and giving men a run for their money the Mississippi was an important transport route even before cars and

Trains were invented but the water level has fallen steadily in recent years making Inland navigation harder not only were Goods transported on the river slaves were also once an important cargo giving rise to the phrase sold down the river still today over a third of mississippians are black making it one

Of the US states with the largest African-American populations a different kind of equestrian Club is about 250 km south of Memphis near Greenville the Delta Hill Riders Jesse Brown boards three horses here in Larry Pet’s stable SE they’ll ride tomorrow with Jesse’s daughter Jordan taking heart for the first Time death here ride is a a a a group of African-American Cowboys you know real cowboys I learned it from my cousin uh a lot of his real cowboys no fake no no we really really ride you want to help it’s important to give it to the

Kids my kids and pass it down and keep it going cuz uh with all the technology going on the horses you know sometime be thing of to pass how does 10-year-old Jordan feel about her first ride as a cowgirl I’m very nervous uh but I feel like my dad would

Help me feel a lot of stuff so I’m excited too at the same time as we’ll discover her nervousness is well Founded the Delta Hill Riders hold a traditional barbecue the night before group rides chairman Liddell Porter tells some interesting if not entirely true legends about Cowboys you know cowboys a lot of blacks roll cows cow I mean a lot of blacks wor for ranchers

Back in the old days and hate to say it but a lot of us was called boys a lot back in the days too so by the boys working the cows and stuff their name originally came about they were Cowboys it’ll tell you that’s that’s where they

Came from you got some real famous black cowboys as well and they you know that make movies and stuff we know John Wayne the Duke is one of the most famous white Cowboys that ever lived but he’s not the original cowboy he is an actor according to Porter Hollywood

Turned a derogatory name for African-American cow hands into a Monica for white Heroes who became the stuff of legend for the Delta Hill Riders real cowboys a black I want Jes with stop poking on son oh my hand Lord oh my hand while I’m they’ll set off tomorrow morning and

Ride their horses all the way to the banks of the Mississippi will wake around 500 km further south Environmental researcher and photographer Ben Depp is already on route to his destination the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River on the Gulf of Mexico home to a huge River Delta Louisiana has some of the fastest eroding coasts in the world and we’re losing thousands of square miles of wetlands and it’s a combination of factors including uh sea level rise and natural subsidence where the land is sinking Ben has been monitoring changes to the Delta for years he built this

Small sailboat a few months ago Ben and friend Richie are sailing to a remote island in the Delta they want to C for the night and spend the following day Exploring I feel like slowing down you taking half a day to get anywhere that process of slowing down kind of helps me see this landscape better kind of more clearly growing up here was a good way to understand this landscape right I I spent uh holidays and Summers uh on my

Dad’s Shrimp Boat learning these Waters I learned to swim right over there and much of these areas have have washed away into something Unrecognizable Ben is looking for a remote island to spend the night on because tomorrow he wants to do something out of the ordinary let’s go ahead and assemble my powered parag glider so that I’m ready to go early in the morning I usually wake up an hour before sunrise and kind

Of set things up but it takes a little longer to put the motor back together after sailing the Mississippi River delta Basin is a low-lying area and the islands are flat the best way to explore them is from the air Ben’s powered paraglider is perfect but its range is Limited Ben and Richie enjoy evenings like this just trying to get a little fire started we don’t really need it this evening but it’s more for psychological reasons right a little warmth um scares off any animals there’s a few coyotes on the island nothing to worry about but I

Have seen cougar Footprints just about 10 miles from here the two spend a peaceful night where the Mississippi meets the Gulf of Mexico little do they know what tomorrow will Bring the Delta Hill Riders get their horses ready the next morning 10-year-old Jordan is supposed to join them for the first time no problem says stable owner Larry they got it black new a little more flare than the white D you know they have more flare when they ride a horse

They be want a little more a little more style of G get up to you know you know what I’m saying so yeah it’s a different it going to be it’s it’s different Jordan’s big moment back up oh oh I’m going show what P back whoa whoa although Larry is confident Jordan

Can keep Pace during the ride others aren’t convinced including her father Jesse stop and give some slack yeah I’m a little bit afraid she can’t do it right now I really wanted to do it I haven’t rode a horse in a long time though I never Pull the Rope by myself guess I

Always P it Jordan calls it quits for now Jordan’s going to be all right I know you a little nervous right now but you going to get it we’ll try again you all right mhm Okay the Delta Hill Riders consider themselves America’s True Cowboys it’s thought that after the US Civil War One in every four Cowboys was black but Hollywood wrote them out of History oh yeah we want to bring uh awareness to the Cowboys in the Mississippi Delta you know let no black cowboys exist here and uh we always be around and it’s more than farm land in uh in agricultur I mean uh other other form agriculture so an my agriculture

Too that’s what we want to bring to everybody attention that we here we here to Stay the Delta Hill Riders want recognition for their role in history because black Cowboys played an important part in building America Environmental researcher and photographer Ben Depp gets his paraglider ready for takeoff early in the morning he wants to explore parts of the Mississippi Delta starting from this Island it’s very windy today so it’s a little bit uh I’m getting thrown around a little bit Ben has been flying and documenting the loss of islands in the Delta for years hurricane Ida came through this area last fall and uh came through just a little

Bit West of here and it really damaged a lot of islands a little bit West of here so I’m kind of also curious to see if hurricane Ida damage came this far east parts of the Delta have been cleared to make lanes for large cargo ships and

Pipelines the work helps the water sweep more and more little Islands Away sounds like something just broke the engine stopped and Ben must make an emergency Landing it’s good he wasn’t out over the water yet not exactly sure what hit it could have been uh I don’t know Ben tries to make the best of things he patches up the

Propeller and other parts a belt probably snapped time for a second attempt he doesn’t want to make an emergency landing in these alligator infested water success the motor is running smoothly Ben can start to take Pictures he quickly realizes that huge SES of land have again been lost in recent months more than 54 square k omers are washed away each year New Orleans the city’s deep waterer container Port contributes to the Lost land as ships need ever deeper navigation channels New Orleans is known by many different

Names the Paris of the South Queen of the South the birthplace of jazz and The Big Easy the French Quarter is the city’s historic heart the chocor traded Goods at its French market and Joon of AR now stands here a gift from France African-Americans have also left

Their Mark bringing Jazz and Voodoo to New Orleans the French Quarter is home to voodoo priestess Christina bar who’s performing a love spell for one of her Clients I’ve seen uh Elders take one simple candle like this and move mountains with it so it’s really all about your intentions uh with voodu uh we’re serving the laah the LA are spirits which serve as intermediaries between humans and the Supreme Creator a lot of people assume that I’m

Mambo I’m a sagu no not yet I’m still on my way up so I work under my uh Mambo my bone Mambo Sally and Glassman today Christina is meeting with Mumbo Sally Anne for a voodoo Mass she always performs the same rituals as part of her training to

Become a Mumbo aogu or high priestess her first stop the cemetery Christina draws strength here from her ancestors she feels an especially strong connection to her deceased grandfather when our uh family transitions over they’re with us we they call it God speed for a reason if we

Call the name they’re right like my grandfather who I’ve been talking about is right behind me you can feel what I do with my gifts I listen to my body I I feel the changes in energy her next stop Congo Square slaves gathered here once a week in the 19th

Century it was the only place they were permitted to dance and speak their native languages but they still weren’t allowed to practice Voodoo Here Voodoo practitioners would instead bring their sacrifices to the trees which also served as Gallows These trees were used for evil they were used to hang you know my ancestors and many other ancestors here actually vibrating right now uh I have chills all over my body just speaking these words about them I can hear them I can feel them Christina’s third stop is the Temple of her Mambo Sallyanne preparations are already being made for the mass which The High Priestess herself will Oversee salian has been practicing Voodoo since 1977 cha hopes to follow in her Footsteps that’s been a lot of burden on her shoulders and I expect that Christina is going to expect her to go all the way that I think she’ll become a mumo aagu definitely uh I want to go as far as the LA want me to go and as many

People as I can uh bring awareness to and bring them to a religion I’m all for that the rituals begin after Sundown voodoo’s followers no longer have to hide their religion originally from West Africa Voodoo was brought here by the slave trade from Haiti once demonized and suppressed respect for the religion is

Now Growing and Christina also has faith that one one day she too will be a mambo a Venice is a small community nestled among swamps about 100 km southeast of New Orleans Richie blink and coworker Mark load seedlings onto his narrow boat at the marina no longer content just to help his friend Ben the paraglider study the shrinking Delta Richie is actively combating It today what we’re going to be doing is we’re going to be planting some cypress trees out in the Wetland areas and I began doing this work around U 2009 or so 2010 and I was working in the oil and gas industry and I was driving the boats

Here in the harbor right and I was going back and forth between the harbor and and these Platforms in the gulf and noticing a lot of land loss over the years and I wanted to be doing anything I could to to be slowing that down and and so planting trees was something that

I could do within my own Power Richie and Mark have already planted several thousand trees in the Mississippi Delta the tree roots give the islands greater stability so they’re not as easily washed away Richie knows his efforts are just a drop in the bucket but Figures it’s better than doing Nothing so these cream on these islands same I planted these as well here and these here Richie grows the seedlings in his own garden and receives no financial assistance from the government or Aid organizations he used to work as a fisherman and later on an offshore oil

Rig Richie now has a job with the local Township but he’s most devoted to his work in the Delta so you can see there’s water in the ground here very high water table thank you this island is at risk because it doesn’t have a single tree and the roots

Of the plants aren’t more than a couple of CM deep Mark has been PL hunting trees alongside Richie for years my family came here in the early 1700s been living here ever since and if it goes away we go away the humans that were living here before they

Built Earth and mounds made out of one basket of mud and shell at a time they pulled their efforts and labor together to live in these exceedingly productive places and when the Europeans got here we built levies and we started controlling nature and where we find the

Problems here is where we try to control nature too much since the building of the levies in the 1930s the sea level here has risen by about 9 mm each year and about 5,000 sare km of land has been lost the Mississippi River has provided for my family for generations and the

Delta is in Peril right and so we’re I’m doing what I can and others are too to help restore this area because it’ll take care of us into the future and the Mississippi River brings all Americans together in one way or another right it makes us who we

Are scientists expect that most of these little Islands will be gone for good in just 20 years but richy and others who live by the Mississippi refuse to give up hope just Yet

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