Rural America

Monday, Sep 7, 2015, 8:30 pm

From Quebec to Wisconsin: Walking for Water

By John Collins

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To commemorate their 1,300 mile journey, Native "water walkers" erected 19 poles on the north end of an island in Lake Superior.   (John Collins / Rural America In These Times)

In Ojibwe culture, water is feminine because it’s the carrier of life.

Since 2003, Ojibwe elder Josephine Mandamin, a 66 year-old born in Wikwemikong, Ontario, has led long-distance treks—sacred water walks—along the Great Lakes in hopes of instilling a maternal responsibility when it comes to protecting North American waterways from pollution.

“The water is sick…people need to really fight for that water, to speak for that water to love that water,” says Mandamin.

This year, to raise awareness about the oil spills on both the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, and the train derailments "that have caused disasters to our waters, fish and vegetation,” Mandamin left Matane, Quebec on June 23.

On September 3, roughly 30 water walkers arrived on the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa ‘s fishing grounds on Madeline Island in northern Wisconsin. They brought drums, tobacco and water carried from the Atlantic Ocean.

During a ceremony on the island’s north end, participants erected 19 poles to commemorate the more than 1,300 mile journey. 



John Collins is the editor of Rural America In These Times. He lives between Minneapolis and La Pointe, Wisconsin, a village on Madeline Island in Lake Superior.

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