Anishinaabe women embark on North Water Walk

Raising awareness of quality, sacredness of water

CHURCHILL, Manitoba (May 21, 2011) – A group of dedicated First Nations people, led by Anishinaabe women have begun their sacred walk as part of the northern journey of the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk.

The women began the day in ceremony by dipping their copper vessel into the ice-cold Hudson’s Bay, gathering up the water that will travel 1,456 km from Churchill, Manitoba to Bad River, Wisconsin. The copper pail will be carried by the women, symbolizing their sacred responsibility to look after the water.

The Walk is supported by many volunteers led by Debby Danard, lead walker for the north.

“We are the final direction to move the water forward bringing awareness of the need to protect our waters and our Mother Earth,” said Danard, an Ojibway woman from Rainy River First Nations. “As we pick up the final water we are completing the circle, we are all walking to ensure the future generations have the understanding of their responsibility to care for the waters.”

“We are walking to ensure the continued protection of the north, its water sources, the great white bear that lives here and all the surrounding wildlife and ecosystem,” added Danard. “Through climate change, the choices we make as a society inevitably have an effect here.”

Following the filling of the copper pail, the walkers and their supporters are gathering in Churchill for a vibrant send-off. As there are no roads to Churchill, the walkers, the water and the eagle staff that accompanies the Walk will travel nearly 1,700 km by train to Winnipeg.


On May 23, the walkers will be greeted by a welcome ceremony at the train station in Winnipeg and will move to the Indian & Metis Friendship Center for a feast.

The Walk will then continue on foot, continue through Ontario, Minnesota and Wisconsin before arriving at Bad River Indian Reservation on June 10.

The Mother Earth Water Walk was founded in 2003 by Anishinaabe grandmother Josephine Mandamin, who carried the copper pail of water completely around Lake Superior.

“Keewatin Nibi (northern water), we are taking your relative to take of your healing waters to the Chief of the Great Lakes; Lake Superior and to combine healing to all other waters with your salt water. We orphan you from your home, we know that and we will take great care as we journey with you to the great lakes. Miigwech nibi (thank you, water),” said Mandamin, in speaking to the Hudson’s Bay water.

“Each step we take is a prayer for the water, for Mother Earth, for the animals, the birds, the insects, the trees and for us, all two leggeds. By all of us walking, we offer a prayer for life,” added Mandamin, 69, an Ojibway elder from Thunder Bay, Ontario.

This Spring, the Water Walk returns and the prayer continues. The 2011 Water Walk will unite all the waters of North America walking from all four directions including:

  • Hudson’s Bay (North Walk beginning today in Churchill, MB)
  • Gulf of Mexico (South Walk began April 20 in Gulfport, MS)
  • Atlantic Ocean (East Walk began on May 7 in Machias, ME)
  • Pacific Ocean (West Walk began on April 10 in Olympia, WA).

With the start of the North Walk, all four Walks are now being held concurrently.

The Mother Earth Water Walk was conceived to be a focal point to raise awareness and generate support, recognition and awareness of the importance of keeping water clean. The message of these women is simple: Water is precious and sacred… We need to work together to protect water as it is one of the basic elements needed for life to exist.

Nearly every Spring, the women and their supporters have walked each of the Great Lakes and the length of the St. Lawrence River. The movement has been growing exponentially ever since.

It is estimated that a total of 9,426 km and well over 10 million steps will be walked this year.

The Anishinaabe, also known as the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi, are the caretakers of the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system on Earth. Anishinaabe women, as givers-of-life, are responsible for speaking for, protecting and carrying our water.

All people are encouraged and welcome to participate in and to support the 2011 Water Walk as it passes through their Provinces, States and communities.

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