Walking for Water: Walking for Life

Posted on April 26, 2018
By Mary Anne Caibaiosai

Woman by the water 5 3Water is an essential infrastructure in the life of our community. Our bodies are approximately 80% water. How we treat the water in our rivers is how we treat the waters in our bodies.  Sick water creates sick communities. In either case, the spirit of our waters need healing because water is our life.

Boozhoo, Greetings from Nodin Ikwe, Wind Spirit Woman, bear clan Anishnaabe kwe, from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, Manitoulin Island.  My English name is Mary Anne Caibaiosai.  I am an Anishnaabe woman residing in Kitchener Ontario.  In 2017, I was honoured to join Josephine Mandamin and others during the “For the Earth and Water Walk 2017” which began in Duluth, Minnesota in April and ended at Matane, Quebec in July.  The walk was ceremonial and transformative in nature and since then I am being led to walk for the Grand River in this same way. I want to invite all settler and Indigenous people who live in this region, to join in this walk from September 15-29, 2018.  I believe the nature of the walk will re-connect people to the land, to all of Creation in ways that will teach respect for all of these beings; that water has spirit and gives us and our community life.

Here are some of my reflections and memorable experiences from the 2017 ceremonial walk:

The moment we stepped onto the pavement in the pre-dawn and lifted the copper pail, we were in ceremony. We prayed with and put tobacco on the earth as the pail came toward us. The woman who passed the pail kept walking with the pail, and I gathered the pail while it was still in motion. This way of relaying the pail signified the idea water is forever flowing. As soon as I accepted the pail, I offered up prayers and sang for the water; she who gives all life. 

Grand River

As we walked in the pre-dawn, all the beings in Creation began to awaken. We heard the voices of crickets, frogs and bullfrogs as we passed by marshes. We felt the power of the mosquito and blackflies as we walked near bogs. We heard the songs of the winged ones, robins, red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, blue-jays and crows; their chorus a symphony of soft and sharp voices; all music to our ears.

After the birds began to sing, we watched the star-like diamonds of the night begin to wink out as the sun came up. Some mornings the sunrise was breathtaking and the walkers often took that opportunity to honour that time. Some would walk on the other side of the road to witness the fullness of the sun coming up. Some mornings it rained and the drops of rain would fall onto our ponchos and umbrellas; we kept walking nonetheless to keep the pail of water moving. Earlier in the walk, the walkers walked even through blizzards and wind-storms.

The men were, and are, responsible to carry an eagle staff and walking beside or behind the woman carrying the pail. We understand the eagle sees the furthest and so that winged one’s spirit was used to guide the woman and pail around obstacles and detours on the journey. There were days when we walked through toxic territories and passed by wind turbines and under power lines. During those times, the pail and eagle staff became heavy and we came to feel the relationship between energy and water.  It was challenging because we could feel the electrical charges in our extremities. We felt tension as we walked through settler territory; those who were unsympathetic to our walk; we walked over concrete and along highways where cars, trucks and transports sped past us. We walked through farmland where the smell of manure filled our lungs; we walked through cities with little signs of natural life; where there were no trees, little bird-life and hardly any natural sounds.

The walkers were elevated however, by many experiences. We saw horses run down to greet us along fences and farmlands. They stood and watched us pass, with what looked like respect and honour. They seemed to have a particular relationship with the eagle staff and stared whenever we approached. Sometimes horses would run down from where they stood on hills and trot down close to where we walked. They would paw the ground, stare in silence and then follow along as far as they could within their fenced in areas. It was magic to watch this, to witness what we believe was ancestral memory from long ago when horses first carried warriors holding their staffs.

These connections, these relationships are real; we witnessed them and felt them in our very core; our hearts and our spirits were lifted. The walkers felt the heat of the sun, the pavement hurt our feet, ankles, knees and hips; yet we persisted to carry the pail and the staff.  Many passed by us, some asked about our quest, others didn’t care. Yet, we knew the importance of keeping the water moving and how important to offer prayers, tobacco and song for the waters. We sang special water songs [Nibi song:  http://www.motherearthwaterwalk.com/?attachment_id=2244] and whispered what words we could to her.  The words “Nga zichige nibi onjii”, which means “I do it for the water”, “Water is Life”, “Water is Sacred” were painted on our vehicles.  We were proud, are proud of those walks we do for our sacred Medicine; water.

It is my dream that many people in the Grand River Watershed will join us in this walk so they too can re-connect to Mother Earth and to the waters. In light of this dream, we seek support through financial and other donations of food, sleeping accommodations, drinking water, gas, first aid items; support through prayers and helping us bring awareness for this walk and for the need for clean and healthy water.  We are grateful for any of this support you can offer.  We walk for the water for seven generations and beyond!

Learn More:

Environment, Environmental Stewardship, Cities Deepening Community

Mary Anne Caibaiosai

By Mary Anne Caibaiosai

Boozhoo, Greetings from Nodin Ikwe, Wind Spirit Woman, bear clan Anishnaabe kwe, from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, Manitoulin Island. My English name is Mary Anne Caibaiosai. I am an Anishnaabe woman residing in Kitchener Ontario.

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