Water walker Tasha Beeds pours the water back into the river. 

Following a Buffy Sainte-Marie concert at the Phoenix in Toronto in October 2011, four Water Walkers needed a battery boost. While I offered my assistance, one of the women, Liz Osawamick, perused one of my Treaty Commemoration Photobooks. She then invited me to document a water walk on Mother’s Day 2012 at Curve Lake First Nation and presented me with a bookmark containing her contact information. For months, that bookmark was in my pocket as a reminder of the walk, until the day I finally attended in May 2012. 

Water walking is a peaceful, numinous phenomenon. Anishinaabe Nokomis Josephine Mandamin (Anishinaabe Grandmother, Elder and Water Activist, founder of Mother Earth Water Walk) traced millions of steps to protect the Water. Nokomis’ passion inspired many other kwewag (women) to pick up their bundles (responsibilities). 

Approaching this ceremony with a good heart causes the intention to come alive. Everyone smudges with lit sage prior to the ceremony. Women wear long skirts and men wear long pants. The kwewag (women), being the life-givers, are responsible for the Nibi (water), hence they carry the copper pail filled with water. Protection and support are the Ininiwag’s (men’s) responsibility as they carry an eagle staff. The men walk a step or two behind the Kwe carrying the Pail. Whenever water is taken from a river or a lake, Asema (Tobacco) is offered first. As the water walk proceeds, walkers offer Asema at each of the cardinal directions before taking up the pail and the responsibility for Nibi (water).

This ceremony fuses the seven Anishinaabe Grandfather teachings of love, respect, honesty, truth, courage, humility and wisdom. As one walks and prays, one is enraptured with respect and love for Nibi, which inevitably causes one to respect all living things, and all things are living.

These images represent organizers and the core group of various walks around Nogojiwanong (Peterborough) between 2012 and 2016 water walks.


Dr. Shirley Williams, Lead Elder in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough), during the 2012 Water Walk.

Loons at Sunrise Ceremony before the 2012 Water Walk in Nogojiwanong area.

Curve Lake Chief Knotts with Eagle Staff and Liz Osawamick with Copper Pail/Nibi.

Nokomis Josephine Mandamin Lead Elder and Walker for the Mother Earth Water Walk joined us in Nogojiwanong.

Nokomis Josephine Mandamin and Anishinaabe Kwe Liz Osawamick.

The Water Walkers navigate the rolling hills.

Despite the unpredictable weather  – rain, wind and snow,  the Walkers trudged on. 

Anishinaabe Elder Dorothy Taylor carrying the Copper Pail/Nibi for the final few hundred feet.

Anishinaabe Kwe Georgie Horton Baptiste carrying the Copper Pail/Nibi alongside Chief Kelly LaRocca.

Aniishinabe Kwe Becky Big Canoe carrying the Copper Pail/Nibi. 

Elder Dr. Shirley Wiliams and Scugog Island Chief Kelly LaRocca carrying the Copper Pail/Nibi the last 100 feet. We started and ended at this location 'Gaabibendaagzijig where the burial site of a 10,000 year old Midewin with Ceremonial items.

The 2015 Kawartha Lakes Water Awareness Walk around the Otonabee River. Lakefield Mayor Mary Smith joined us, with Dr. Shirley Williams, Liz Osawamick and Meegwans Osawamick Sagassige.

The 2015 Kawartha Lakes Water Awareness Walk around the Otonabee River. Christine Welter is carrying the Copper Pail/Nibi and Troy White is carrying the Eagle Staff.

Anishinaabe Kwe Kim Wheatley carrying the Copper Pail/Nibi. Danny Beaton carrying one of the Eagle Staffs, and Cameron Brown carrying the other one.

Nokomis Josephine on the 2016 Nogojiwanong Water Walk.

The Walkers stop at a predetermined location representing one of the four directions. Asema and Prayers are offered at all the four directions. Here Tasha Beeds is pouring water back into the river.

The Second  Migration Walk began around Duluth Minnesota and ended at Matane Quebec. This was taken on the Bruce Peninsula at Spirit Rock with Walkers from Michigan, and Ontario.

Elders Pat Oakes and Vivian Recollect coming from the West into Marilyn Bell Park to meet the Elders coming in from the East.

Elders Josephine Mandamin and Dr Shirley Williams coming from the West into Marilyn Bell Park to meet the Elders coming in from the West.

Anishinaabe Kwewag Merridy, Karen and Rae offering support at the Great Lakes Water Walk Nibi Ceremony at Marilyn Bell Park.

The Second Migration Walk. The image was taken in Hamilton, Ont. This SUV was one of the vehicles used on the Walk. One can see Thunderbird Woman on the driver’s side and also the other on the passenger side.



If you liked this article, please subscribe or donate today to support our work.

A\J moderates comments to maintain a respectful and thoughtful discussion.
Comments may be considered for publication in the magazine.