There is a special gift of a book titled, ‘The Water Walker’ that should surely find its way into every collection at school libraries, public libraries, Sunday school libraries, and indeed – home libraries in Canada and beyond. ‘The Water Walker’ is a love story for all time. For all ages. For all people. For Nibi.
Authored and illustrated by Joanne Robertson, ‘The Water Walker’ is an homage to a woman – Ojibwe Nokomis Josephine Mandamin – and the water walk movement she continues to inspire. Mandamin is from Wikwemikong First Nation, and now resides in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Robertson is AnishinaabeKwe, a member of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, and is a graduate of Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig. She resides in Goulais, Ontario with her husband Chris, where ‘Fiddlehead Farms’ keeps the two of them extraordinarily busy. Chris and Joanne have been farming in Goulais for about 21 years. Fiddlehead Farms is known in the Algoma District as a go-to farm for strawberries, fresh produce and maple syrup.
Joanne continues to work as a research assistant at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, at Algoma University. She has played an integral role in the water walk movement, providing on-the-ground data and route information in real time through ‘Live Spot GPS’.
The book, ‘The Water Walker’ follows the story of Grandmother (Nokomis) Josephine and her love for Nibi (water). Robertson leads the reader through Josephine’s nibi walking journey with colourful illustrations and pronunciation guides for Anishinaabe words. Robertson’s illustrations are colourful and paint an endearing picture of Josephine’s journey. Each panel tells its own story, opening up pathways for learning, exploring, contemplating. Nibi.
Robertson first met Josephine Mandamin in August, 2007 at Three Fires Confederacy which took place in Garden River, Ontario. In 2009, Mandamin and Robertson would begin a deep friendship when the two met up again at Algoma University.
Robertson founded The Empty Glass for Water Campaign in 2008.
Josephine has become an iconic symbol for the earth and water. A living vessel that contains her spirit force – the molecules of her ancestors. She has been compelled, in turn, to carry a vessel filled with liquid life – a copper pail – on epic walks for nibi.
Josephine, and those who have sojourned with her, elevated nibi through ceremony and protocol. It is the women walkers who carry the copper pail (for the most part). The men travel along as guides and protectors, holding the Eagle Staff – an extension of the ancestors who they carry in every intentional footstep – in every place and time where their feet land – where they breathe the air – where they petition the waters with sacred tobacco and ceremony.
In Anishinaabekwe culture, women are given the responsibility to take care of the water. “The water of Mother Earth, she carries life to us, and as women we carry life through our bodies. We as women are life-givers, protectors of the water, and that’s why we are very inclined to give mother earth the respect that she needs for the water,” said Mandamin.
“That’s our responsibility, our role, and our duty, to pass on the knowledge and understanding of water, to all people, not just Anishinabe people, but people of all colors.”
In the wake of extreme extractive industries such fracking, oil, and coal, access to clean water is rapidly declining. “In our prophecies, in our Three Fires Midewiwin Society, we are taught that water is very precious. I was told by a grand chief that 30 years from now an ounce of water will cost as much as an ounce of gold if we continue with our negligence,” said Mandamin.
“If we discontinue our negligence, we can change things around. That’s why I am really embodying the prophecy. You’ve heard of ‘Walk The Talk,’ this is why I walk.”
Mandamin’s intentional footsteps for the water has accumulated to many miles and kilometers. It is estimated that Mandamin has walked over 25,000 kilometers. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_Mandamin)
Nokomis Josephine’s water walks have taken her to – Lake Superior – 2003, 2004 – Lake Michigan, 2005 – Lake Huron, 2006 – Lake Ontario, 2007 – Lake Erie, 2008 – Lake Michigan, 2009 – St Lawrence River, 2011 – Water Walk, 2012 – Lake Monona, 2015 – Lake Winnebago, 2015 – Sacred Walk, 2016 Menominee River, and 2017 For the Earth and Water Walk. At 6:00 am, April 20th, 2017, on Spirit Mountain, Duluth MN, USA, Josephine Mandamin began her last epic walk for nibi. (https://saultonline.com/2017/04/water-walk-2017-for-the-earth-and-water-from-west-to-east/).
Second Story Press’s Marketing and Promotions Manager, Emma Rodgers told Saultonline, “This book is doing amazingly well, and is now in its’ third printing.” Wow!. Congratulations Joanne Robertson.
Rodgers also shared that today, in a blog post, ‘Second Story Press’ was inspired to lift stories about the walk movement in honour of World Water Day. (https://secondstorypress.ca/wavemaker/women-and-the-water-walking-movement).
Joanne Robertson has been invited to speak and share her book with children in numerous schools and libraries across the province. Today, World Water Day 2018, Robertson is in Guelph, Ontario where she will be offering a reading at ‘The Book Shelf’ this evening.
‘The Water Walker’, is described as being for children, ages 6-9 and for elementary school grades 1-3.
In my humble opinion, ‘The Water Walker’ is a book for all ages – and for life-long learners of every generation. Get inspired today, and find a copy of ‘The Water Walker’, by Canadian author, Joanne Robertson.
Thank you to Emma Rodgers, ‘Second Story Press’, for providing Saultonline with images for the story.
Find “The Water Walker ©Second Story Press, 2017″ here: https://secondstorypress.ca/kids/the-water-walker