Water Walk 2003

Water Walk 2003

By Josephine Mandamin

On Monday, May 26, 2003, we reached the same location where we had begun. On a cold and rainy Easter Monday morning, April 21, 2003, we began the First Annual Water Walk around Lake Superior. As we approached our destination, approximately 1,300 miles later, we were greeted by a group of wellwishers and Mide supporters who provided us rest. The walkers who did the final stretch of the walk were: Mario Wassaygeesic, Violet Caibaiosai, Melvina Flamand, Thecla Neganegijig and yours truly, Josephine Mandamin. In the Mide Schoolhouse, we gathered for the spiritual celebration and kind words from the Grand Chief E. Benton-Banaise-Bawdwayadun.

Our Grand Chief was the initiator of the idea of the walk for water during a Sundance Ceremony at Pipestone, Minnesota last year. Bawdwayadun told of a prophecy that in thirty years the abuses of the water will result in severe shortages and only those that can afford it will have water to drink, and if we don’t do anything about it, our water will cost the same as gold. As in all prophecies there is hope. In this prophecy the hope is the word, “if”. Bawdwayadun, in ending his teaching, hauntingly, asked of the audience, “What are you going to do about it?”

Each day of the walk for water began with a cleansing of the pail of water and the eagle staff, at 5:00 a.m., and ended approximately 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. The eagles have shown themselves to us to remind us of their work and the work of the feathers on the eagle staff that traveled with us. The high noon connected with us through the centre of our beings with the universe.We shared our thoughts with the Creator as we prayed for the sick and the less fortunate. The offering of our Pipe each fourth day reminded us where we came from and connected us with our ancestors and the Creator with the tobacco offering. The water we carried in our copper pail, always reminded us of our womanly responsibilities as givers of life as Mother Earth gives us, her children, life. Without our mother the earth and her water, life would be arid and dead.

The numerous, daily water songs that we sang for the water are now forever embedded in nature as we saw it and were welcomed by it. The words of the water songs made us ever humble as we walked with the copper pail of water. The copper reminded us of its element from the universe and how it formed to be a part of Mother Earth in her tender beginnings. The heaviness in our hearts was unbearable when we saw the destruction of the forests, the earth being gouged by machines, the rivers and creeks dying in the human filth amid green slime and brown, poison fluid flowing into the cleaner rivers.The death along the highways was sickening; of deer, fawn, moose, rabbits, porcupine, skunks, and birds killed by traffic. These scenes always reminded us that progress has no value for life. We can be knocked down at any time for getting in the way.

The experience was humbling in that I knew at last what we were doing. Words cannot fully describe what we were doing.We did it for the water, for the earth, for the animals, for the insects, for the trees, for all the two leggeds. To remind all those we came across, that the walk was for them. Not us. The walk was for the next generations, we walked with the water for them also. They will know, as Mother Earth knows that we walked with the water for all of creation. When the walk got tiring and painful, this was ever on my mind that I walk with the water for whomever needs it and I would walk the distance to bring the water to those who need it. The next generation will remember the Water Walk, our grandchildren will remember the water walk, and so on to the next generations. Not one of us was separate. We walked as one.

We laughed together, we cried together. These were the greatest moments. These were the moments when we were closely united in spirit.We all took care of each other.We look forward to Water Walk 2004 around Lake Michigan.We will begin on Easter Monday again. The women who live around the lake are gearing up for the walk. It is their lake!

Miigwetch! Thank you!
Josephine Mandamin
628 N. Harold Street, Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada P7C 4E3



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.