A copper pail carrying a most essential element, began an epic journey on June 23rd, 2015. The Sacred Water Walk 2015, started from the land of the Wabanaki at Matane, Quebec and will end at Madeline Island in Wisconsin sometime in September,2015. The nibiiwakik na, or water pail is made of copper, and is carried only by women. Protecting nibi (water), are Eagle staff carriers, who move as one, together with women, and men walkers who join Nokomis (Grandmother) Josephine Mandamin along the route. All along the route which traverses rivers and The Great Lakes of Turtle Island (North America),along and into shared borders with the United States, Josephine Mandamin is seeking to elevate the preservation, conservation and conversation around water. Josephine is a graduate of Algoma University ‘Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig’.
“Josephine was in attendance at an event where author and Native American elder Edward Benton-Banai was speaking. He (Edward Benton) went on to ask a question about what we, as individuals are willing to do to protect water.” shared Joanne Robertson “Josephine was inspired by that question to make protecting nibi (water) her sacred quest.” Edward Benton shared with those gathered at the event that ‘someday an ounce of water will cost more than an ounce of gold’.
Joanne Robertson sat down with saultonline at Algoma University to share the story of The Sacred Water Walk 2015. Joanne was just wrapping up a role with Algoma U., where she was an Anishinaabe Outreach Officer. Joanne was also a coordinator for the ‘Mother Earth Sacred Water Walk’ in 2011.
“Once the walk begins, water must keep moving until ‘touchdown’.” she shared. “Touchdown happens each night. It is wherever the water pail touches the earth. A circle of pebbles marks the spot and symbolizes where the sunrise ceremony will begin as the sacred water walkers greet the early morning to venture out again. The walk starts out each morning sometime around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m.” said Joanne. “Only women carry the water. Eagle Staff Carriers walk behind the water pail, and women carrying the pail to protect the journey.”
According to ancient First Nations legends of the Ojibway/Anishinabe people, long ago, after the Great Mystery, or Kitchi-Manitou first peopled the earth, the Anishinabe, or Original People, strayed from their harmonious ways and began to argue and fight with one another. Brother turned against brother over hunting grounds and others disagreements. Seeing that harmony, brotherhood, sisterhood, and respect for all living things no longer prevailed on Earth, Kitchi-Manitou decided to purify the Earth. He did this with water.
The Anishinaabe, or Ojibwe people, were given teachings from the Creator. Responsibilities were given to make sure that the people would live in harmony with one another and the natural world and that families and communities would continue to grow and be healthy.
In traditional Anishinaabe communities, women were given the responsibility of taking care of the water. Water is a medicine that helps to keep us all alive. We all need water to survive. Without water, all of creation could not exist. The Anishinaabe believe that water is the blood of Mother Earth. People depend on water for drinking, for medicines that grow in the water, for travel, and for a lot of the food that we eat. Water is a sacred gift from the Creator. (from Turtle Island Creation story)
“It can be very emotional when people from communities come out to support the walkers. When you see a group of people walking towards you, women and men coming out to honour the walk, it can breathe life into you.” reflected Joanne who is helping to coordinate a touchdown and full stop for the sacred water walk 2015, as it moves ever closer to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Michigan. The Sacred Water Walk 2015 schedule is as fluid as the contents of the copper pail for obvious reasons. However, the website provides up-to-date information, including a way to track the walkers in real time. August 19th and 20th,2015 will see the walkers moving through to the Sault from Laird, Ontario, with a one day rest in The Sault.
The mission of Sacred Water Walk 2015 is to ‘raise awareness of oil spills on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and train derailments that have caused great harm to our waters’.
At this time, Joanne Robertson and friends locally are working to secure a donation of at least 4 hotel rooms for Sacred Water Walk 2015, as it moves through the Algoma region. “Sault Ste. Marie will be a ‘full stop’ for walkers. We will have ceremonies and a feast, and an early evening to allow the walkers a tremendous rest. The following day, a bridge (International) crossing will happen as Nokomis and walkers move into Michigan.” shared Joanne.
Saultonline will be following the story.
‘Water is amazing, it flows where it wants to, it can go through any crack, crook or cranny. It can sing the most beautiful songs, if you listen well. She can sound like a male voice, especially during huge waves. It ebbs and flows leaving us messages in her journey throughout life. We are connected and united to life with water, and as we are all united by water; it seems we must be conscious of all things united. This connections or linkage helps us understand life and what it gives to humans, nature and animals. We are all so connected, so united with/by water. It is all life…. To see how water can mold itself to any situation, we can see it in any shape we put it in: jars, small containers, huge gallons – it flows to any shape or form. We are all connected by water and as we are all of water: 70 or 80% of our body mass, why can’t we flow like the water? to unite ourselves with each other, to sing like the water, to think like the water, to be of one conscious entity? Why can’t we? IF we could be, we will be one big ocean of love, kindness, respect, united and jelled together as one, we will be the generation to save our Mother.’ Josephine Mandamin, Nokomis, Grandmother, Water walker.
Thank you to George Campana, Nokomis Josephine Mandamin, Darren Wrightman, and Mariah Bneshiins Alexander for your photographs. Miigwetch.
Water Walkers United