Walking for the Water

Great-grandmother Josephine Mandamin, an Anishinabe elder from Thunder Bay, Ontario has seen the decline of the Great Lakes due to pollution, and decided to do something to bring the world's attention to the problem. She began walking around the lakes six years ago, and has covered 17,000 kilometers so far.
In the Anishinabe tradition, women fetch the water. So, in 2003, when Mandamin was "moved by the spirits" to speak out for the Great Lakes, it was natural for her to pick up her copper pail and start walking. She decided to circle the lakes and tell people that "the water is sick ... and people need to really fight for that water, to speak for that water, to love that water."

Every spring since, Mandamin and a small band of followers have walked around one of the lakes. Next weekend they depart from the Katarokwi Native Friendship Centre here to walk up the St. Lawrence River. Their mission will end where the lakes' water pours into the Atlantic Ocean (bearing so much poison that a quarter of the male beluga whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have cancer).

At every tributary, Mandamin stops and talks directly to the water, offering prayers, tobacco and thanks. "I've heard so many times, `You're crazy...'" she says. "But we know it's not a crazy thing we're doing; we know it's for the betterment of the next generations."

The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 35 million people. Link to story. Link to Mother Earth Water Walk website. -via Nag on the Lake

Illustration by Brian Hughes.

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