Honoring Our Sacred Rivers w/ Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman & Sonia Keiner

Pax April 15th

On Saturday April 8th, 2017 the second Honoring Our Sacred Rivers event was held at the Patuxent Riverkeepers place in Upper Marlboro, MD. It was a beautiful day and we had a great turn out.

It started off with set up of the art supplies and building the alter with Caryl Henry Alexander and my mom Rabiah Nur. Caryl and my mom brought things for the alter they built to Oshun. Oshun is a Nigerian Yoruba deity of the river and fresh water, luxury and pleasure, sexuality and fertility, and beauty and love. She is connected to destiny and divination. An orisha, meaning a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of God in the Ifá and Yoruba religions. She is one of the most popular and venerated orishas. My mom then went to gather water for the river ceremony and then made a spirit plate of our lunch for the day. A spirit plate is a plate that you make before you eat a meal to honor your ancestors and the spirits around you. 

We then all ate lunch which were some delicious tacos before starting the river ceremony on the pier. The ceremony started with Penny Gamble-Williams doing a Wampanoag prayer and then my mom did a prayer on her drum. Then Caryl and my mom did a prayer and some dancing in honor of Oshun and Yemaya a major water deity from the Yoruba religion. She is an orisha and the mother of all orishas, having given birth to the 14 Yoruba gods and goddesses. My mom then passed the water around the circle that she had gathered earlier in the day and had everyone say loving words to the water.

After the river ceremony was finished we got started with the art with Caryl. We made totems which will be used for our last river ceremony on the 28th of April as well as the next day the 29th for the Climate March. People really got creative and did some fabulous pieces. While people were panting I read this book Caryl brought about Mami Wata while I drank some hot chocolate with my dad. Mami Wata is often described as a mermaid-like figure, with a woman’s upper body (often nude) and the hindquarters of a fish or serpent. In the book I learned about the many different forms Mami Wata comes in from many different cultures. It was a very interesting book.

Once the art part was finished we all took pictures with the art and then did our closing ceremony at the alter were we all went around and said a few words of affirmation to the river and the day. We then all did some clean up and said our good byes. This was a very beautiful day with warm weather and wonderful spirits. We had a great turn out and everyone had a great time.

More Information about the Paxtuent River & the Riverkeepers:

Fred was born and raised along the Patuxent River as were seven generations of his ancestors before him. Prior to founding Patuxent Riverkeeper in 2004, Fred operated a business that provided professional media and mass communication services internationally. Fred also worked as volunteer activist on the Patuxent for over 20 years until the momentum of the volunteer environmental work overcame his media career and the challenge of Riverkeeping beckoned. Fred is a recipient of numerous awards and recognitions for his work on behalf of environmental causes and issues in Maryland. He also serves on a variety of Boards, Task Forces and Commissions related to the work of protecting the Patuxent and the natural environment. Among them, Fred serves on the Board of the Environmental Integrity Project, as a Governor appointed Commissioner on the State’s Patuxent River Commission and on the Board of Waterkeeper Alliance, the international group that licenses Waterkeepers. Fred is an adjunct instructor at historic St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he teaches an upper level course in Environmental Law and Policy. He is an avid kayaker and backpacker, and also helps to maintain trails on the Appalachian Trail. He is a very wonderful person and works hard for our rivers making sure all creatures are able to have clean water.

To conserve, protect and replenish Maryland’s longest and deepest intrastate waterway. Through strategic advocacy, restoration and education, our goal is long-term sustainability for the ecosystem of the entire Patuxent River basin and the people who rely on its future.


Storm water Regulatory Reform: Seek stiffer enforcement, better laws and improved design for cleaner development

Wastewater Plant Enforcement: Monitor upgrades and compliance for major and minor sewage sources

Contaminants: Prevent wholesale pollution of waterways through monitoring and litigation


Land Preservation: Preserve open spaces, farmlands and stream buffers

Waterway Patrols and  Complaint Resolution:  Engage in direct involvement and advocacy on the waterway

Watershed Management, Planning and Sustainability: Promote a comprehensive plan to clean up the river and encourage practices that prevent pollution and degradation


Annual Patuxent Cleanup: Support and expand local efforts to restore and beautify the river

Patuxent Roughnecks: A dedicated group of volunteers who restore and maintain fish passage and free-flowing river

Improve public access for paddling and low-impact recreation

Speak at venues across sectors to raise awareness

Daybreak on the Patuxent

Four main tributaries, Western Branch, Little Patuxent River, Davidsonville Branch, and Mattaponi Creek, are the primary feeders into the Patuxent River. There are also several smaller tributaries that help comprise the total drainage of the Patuxent watershed. The River virtually bisects the western shore of the State of Maryland north to south and is tidal and estuarial in the southern reaches. The River is home for more than 100 species of fish, including bass, catfish, chain pickerel, and bluefish. The Patuxent sustains nesting and over wintering bald eagles and a large extended habitat for indigenous wildlife. Among overall Bay tributaries, the Patuxent ranks seventh in fresh water flow into the Chesapeake Bay.

The River is free flowing in its lower half and separated by two dams in its upper reaches which help supply potable water to the greater Washington Metropolitan area. The River was a key strategic stronghold in the early colonial development of Maryland and remains a resource with considerable archeological and paleontological significance. It was the Patuxent River that General George Washington and later Presidents, Jefferson and Madison, had to cross in order to reach Maryland’s capitol when America was in its infancy as a Republic. Furthermore, it was on the Patuxent River that the US Navy flotilla bivouacked to oppose invading English troops during the War of 1812. The River was the host to some of the earliest settlements in the colonial era to the extent that it merited the recognition of English Parliament during the 1600’s as a river of great economic and strategic importance. This early colonial recognition is evident today in the various old English names. However, the word “Patuxent” itself is derived from the language of the indigenous pre-colonial settlers. The name “Patuxent” is said to be from the Algonquin tongue, which means “water running over loose stones”.

Drinking water reservoir

Once one of the most productive sources of shellfish in the world, the Patuxent has been deeply and negatively affected by negligent land use, some 36 wastewater treatments plants (several in need of technological upgrades). The lawmaking and regulatory system has lost its way, being so consumed with broad Baywide problems, passing blame, analysis paralysis, and the desire to placate lawful polluters that it has been unable to halt or slow the steady decline of a waterway heading toward doom for the region and its biodiversity. And yet scientists have pointed to the incredible resilience of the ecosystem, its ability to heal itself if we humans can be compelled to mend our behavior toward the river and restore responsible stewardship. Today the Patuxent is a study in contrasts with regions of pristine beauty, rich in history, wildlife and unforgettable scenic vistas to other areas with poisoned beaches, ravaged fisheries, dead zones and hopelessly blocked and snagged upper tributaries. The water quality of this river in recent years rarely achieves much above a “D-” rating score. A river that has given so much to the citizens and economy of Maryland, now struggles to find enough funds and willpower to undo the damage caused by those who have grown wealthy plundering the riches that should by right, belong to all Maryland’s future generations.

Waders at the Annual Fowler Wade-In

So it is fitting that in acknowledgment of this tradition that a strong and growing Riverkeeper movement was established in 2004 to build a grassroots movement spanning seven Counties, in order to carry the fire, keep the dream of clean water alive, and champion one of the most vital causes on earth: the defense of our natural environment and of the people who depend on it. That is what Patuxent Riverkeeper believes in and stands for. Clean Water, unflinching civic advocacy and the holistic and benevolent treatment of one of nature’s irreplaceable and greatest prizes.

To learn more about the Patuxent Riverkeeper please visit:


Rabiah Nur, Spring of Light:

Rabiah is a healer whose Native American roots frame her work as she is called upon to use her gifts for ceremonies, teaching intuitive counseling, retreats and healings. Due to her ability to connect with spirit she has worked with Indigenous communities from the Mayan, African, Maori and other traditions. She continues to share her gifts with others privately as well as individually. http://rabiahsol.wixsite.com/springoflight

Caryl Henry Alexander:

Caryl conceives and directs visual arts projects with a focus on creative literacy, community collaboration and arts integrated academic curriculum. Her projects have been successful with multi generational, multicultural and interfaith communities in diverse settings. Her paintings and installations are exhibited internationally. She is also a certified Urban Farmer and grows organic veggies for her family. http://www.carylhenryalexander.com/


A community of women that weaves and reconnects communities to Mother Earth. Together they create a bold sisterhood culture of awareness, energy, and flow around place-based environmental issues, cultivating community and contributing to the greater co-fulfillment of our potential as a whole. http://www.ecohermanas.org/

Daughters of the Future Moon:

Spring of light, (Rabiah Nur. Blackfoot & Powhattan)

Womb Work, (Wapajea Walks On Water, Mississippi Choctaw/Creek),

(Penny Gambles-Williams, (Chappaquiddick/Wampanoag and Choctaw), Moonwoman Spirit Art Productions,

have worked individually, and collectively on healing and spiritually uplifting people, protecting Mother Earth, and all of creation. As Daughters of the Future Moon, they are honoring their commitment to bring forth the healing of the water at this critical time. Drawing from the teachings of the natural world, they regularly perform ceremonies at waterways, and for Mother Earth. Water is a living organism that responds, as any other being would, to outside stimuli. Toxic dumping, trash, neglect, and negative speech impacts not only the physical body. It also causes sickness and the killing of vibrant life energy leaving behind the woeful conditions we face today. We have an obligation to continue to uplift and heal this dire situation, by infusing the critical spiritual life essence back into our water.

We are made of water, we can not survive without it. Save our water, save ourselves!

Till Next Time…Rivers Are Life!

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