The Water speaks in the blank spaces of colonial words. There are the stories of wanting to shave Grandfather Mountain tops, which would heavily impact the Saskatchewan River watershed. This body is already suffering from global warming. Settler colonialism wants to reach into the hearts of the Plains Indigenous Nations for the almighty dollar. There are the stories of contamination leeching through the Water veins into the body of Mother Earth. There are stories of the Water being worth more than her weight in gold. Indigenous Nations have carried these prophecies well before they printed them, placing what we need inside our Ancestral territories and in the Spirits of our most beloved Leaders and Old Ones. If you learn to listen to the Land and Waters, you can hear the echo of their voices… our “library” as the late Saulteaux Oral Historian, Alexander Wolfe called it.
In 2000, even before the first “Water Walk” as they are known now, an Anishinaabe Nini Albert Hunter and an Anishinaabe Kwe Sandra Indian who were husband and wife from Onigaming, moved around Lake Superior already trying to bring consciousness: Sandra had received a dream message and she was instructed to carry a copper pail around Lake Superior “to bring forth community visions of protecting the air, land and water for the Seven Generations yet to come.“
Another great leader, the late 3 Fires Ogimaa Bawdweyweydin-Ba knew how to access our Indigenous Land, Water, and Spirit libraries along with those Mide Grandmothers who heard the Water and acted when his words were sounded inside the Sundance Lodge in 2002. He spoke of a prophecy wherein Water was so at risk that in the near future, the Water would be worth more than gold by 2030. He asked the People:
“What are you going to do about it?”
The Grandmothers who responded, led by Biidaasige-Ba, didn’t think about the dollar, their ego, or any obstacles. They just got up thinking about the Water and our collective future generations, moving in Ceremony for Nibi, for all of Life. The Water spoke to them. They listened and acted, moving for the Water across our collective ancestral lands.
The Water Walk is a Ceremony, first and foremost. There are specific protocols that activate and move the Walk from the physical realm to the spiritual one. The Conductors are responsible on that spiritual level and there is caution from our Lodge teachings about being careful. It is not a movement without consequence if those protocols are not enacted since they also serve as protection. When the Water Walk Ceremony is undertaken, all of Creation notices.
Nibi responds with the Life she carries, excited that there are those who remember who She is and who they are. The ripples of that first step moved outwards and, emboldened by the love and the sincerity of the first Water Walkers, the Water called out to many of us. She came to us in dream, in real-time, and through Ceremony. Some of us heard her and listened, opening our hearts, bodies, minds, and Spirits. Washing over our entire being, she placed us in the footsteps of our Ancestors. For many of us, those tracks led to the Midewiwin Doorway. Some of us went through, stepping into our Ancestral worlds, choosing to walk behind the Ones who had left us the pathway through the Lodge.
In the Midewiwin Lodge, we commit ourselves to pick up the “work with both hands” like the late Herman Atkinson did as our Minweyweywigaan Mide Ogimaa Mizhakwanigiizhik tells us. The Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Aunties and Uncles who followed the path before us taught us how to be quiet, sit, and listen. As we learned to leave the colonial echo and draw behind, those Old Ones gave us the bundles we needed, teaching, showing, and repeating the lessons until we absorbed them into our being. The Water, Lands, and Creation express their love in multiple ways for those who learn their language and enter into relationship with them.
Onaubinisay, Three Fires Eastern Door Chief, Jim Dumont when speaking of the Anishinaabe Creation Story says Gizhe Mnidoo wept with the sight of the beauty of Mother Earth. If we hear and know how we came to be as Indigenous people through our Creation Stories, we will remember how we, too, are made of the Earth and Water. In that remembering, we come to recognize how much care and love Gizhe Mnidoo put into our being. We remember how careful Original Man was when he was placed on the Earth by Gizhe Mnidoo. He was so conscious of the beauty of the Earth and all of the living creatures on it, he pointed his toes so he would not harm even a blade of grass or the tiniest, smallest spider.
All of these teachings are carried with the Water as the Water Walkers take those mindful steps. It is always about the Water for the Water Walkers. Ego, hubris, fear, hatred, disrespect, deception, and thoughtless behaviour have no space inside the Ceremony. The Water doesn’t tolerate those who don’t walk inside our respective Indigenous legal orders. Those who do walk in the way of our Ancestors, however, create levels of change that ripple out from the Water to the individual Water Walker and their families, communities, and Nations, whether they are Indigenous or non-Indigenous. The level of consciousness heightens as prayers are said for the Water and all of Creation, as songs are sung in places that have long been silent, and as expressions of gratitude cover each step as we move. And move we did as you can see here in “Mapping the Water Walks.”
Once we start remembering who we are as Indigenous people, there is no going back. Our Ancestors, the Lands and Waters, and the Spirits, who are so happy to see our consciousness of them, open up to us in ways that could never be imagined. They help us heal from all the colonial trauma, giving us the gifts to protect ourselves from the ongoing colonial violence… one generation after another, we remember, and we heal for the next ones to come and the Water, Nibi, she loves us all.