Flowing with the River

Our River, Our Future

Presentations, a parade and possibilities


“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” So said Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, 2500 years ago. In current, gender-neutral language: “You never step into the same river twice.”

Although this phrase is a metaphor for the constantly changing nature of life, it also works if taken literally. Rivers flow and change continuously. The Gila River can be clear and ankle-deep one day, roiling muddy and chest-high the next.

The Gila River Festival, too, is ever-changing. Fresh and different each year. Retaining its character, but shifting its flow, so to speak. This year, the dates for the festival are Sept. 19 - 22, in Silver City and along the Gila River.

The keynote speaker on Sept. 20 is climate activist Tim DeChristopher, who disrupted an illegitimate Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction in 2008 by posing as Bidder 70 and outbidding oil companies for parcels around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah.

Other speakers include Sharman Apt Russell, a John Burroughs awardee for Distinguished Nature Writing and author of “Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist,” and many other books. In her presentation, “The Hero’s Journey, Retold,” Russell will talk about her personal adventure and encourage the audience to think about their own quest to protect the river, land and atmosphere from the threat of climate change.

Adrian Oglesby, water law attorney and director of the University of New Mexico’s Utton Transboundary Resources Center, will give a presentation on legal personhood status for rivers and nature, which courts have recently granted in New Zealand, Colombia and India. In the U.S., corporations are awarded the rights of people, while nature remains voiceless.

Guggenheim Fellow landscape photographer Michael Berman will share his stories and photographs about wild places on the US/Mexico border.  His presentation will feature his new book “Perdido” about the Sierra San Luis, the wildest place in northern Mexico.   

On Sept. 20, the festival hosts youth activist Naelyn Pike, who will discuss how her family and the San Carlos Apache Tribe have worked to defend Oak Flat (near Tucson) from a proposed mine that would devastate one of their sacred sites. Joining Pike in this panel discussion is former youth plaintiff Akilah Sanders-Reed. Silver City’s Thinking ON, a mountain youth climate activists group, will give an interactive presentation Sept. 20.

The Gila River Extravaganza on Sept. 21 kicks off mid-afternoon with the Monsoon Puppet Theater’s puppet parade, beginning at the Murray Ryan Visitors Center and ending up at Gough Park, where the festivities continue until 10 p.m. There will be free kids’ games, community art projects, photo booths and chill zone. There will be live music by Auld Lang Syne from Bisbee, Arizona, Tejano band Caliente and the San Carlos Apache singers and dancers will perform in early evening followed by the Fort Sill Apache fire dancers at dusk.

As in years past, the festival features river outings and field trips led by experts. These events, which are limited to a small number of participants to facilitate deep encounters with the Gila National Forest and Gila River, feature topics such as birding, archaeology and riparian restoration.

To close the festival on Sept.r 22, there will be a ceremony and blessing at the river. Apache elders from near and far will guide attendees in prayer, followed by social dances led by Fort Sill Apache dancers.

For more details and registration, visit our website at: www.gilariverfestival.org or call us at 575-538-8078.