By Sharon Weatherall
Walking 30 kilometres and 10 hours a day around Georgian Bay, a group of Anishinabe women and supporters hope to create awareness of dangerously decreasing water levels.
Following a traditional ceremony the group set out from Cedar Point on Beausoleil First Nation (BFN) just before noon of Friday June 21st.
Performing the blessing was Hector Copegog of Christian Island, a teacher of traditional ways. The day was sunny with clear blue skies the colour of the water.
The walk was organized by Vicki Monague, who was active in the Site 41 protest which stopped a landfill over an aquifer in Simcoe County. Low water levels have inspired her to speak up again. While anguishing over how to take action, Monague dreamt that grandmothers instructed her to bring awareness to the current water situation. The result was ‘Mnidoo Gaamining Bimooseyang’ – Anishinabemowin for Spirit Lake Water Walk.
The BFN woman was emotional speaking before heading out on the 26 day challenge Friday.
“People do not understand how critical the situation is especially for my community. Every winter I see my people struggle getting on and off the boat to cross the icy water to get basic necessities to sustain life. The boat crews risk their lives to operate the boat in dangerous conditions to make sure the people get there,” said Monague.
“On Chimnissing this is the lowest we have seen the water for 20 years – the little islands are no longer islands but attached – that’s how far the water has dropped. When I think of all the people who are sick with diabetes, and other illnesses that rely on the water, I cannot sit idle and wait.”
Georgian Bay waters have represented home for Monague’s people for hundreds of years and none have ever seen the water like this.
“For hundreds of years the Great Mother has given us life from the smallest insects to the biggest animals and trees. We need to honour her for what she has given us. These water levels are not going to change immediately but we can do something – we can collectively look at this issue and see what is making an impact on the water,” said Monague relating all people are feeling the effects of the low water and how it has changed the land and the spawning of the fish, increasing pollution along the shoreline.
“Here in Canada we look at the water like we have so much but if we keep destroying it we will have none. We need to ensure the water is here for future generations. Everyone has a role to play and it’s not too late to make a connection.”
Aya-waasige (The man from the upright light) of Cape Croker Neyaashiinigmiing First Nation and his sister Joanne Keeshig Saugeen Ojibway Nation, were amongst those supporters setting off on the trek.
Keeshig has participated in two water walks with Grandmother Josephine Mandamin – renowned for walking the perimeter of the Great Lakes in recent years to bring awareness to water issues. Mandamin could not join in the walk but sent her blessings.
Keeshig brings her experience from past walks to support the new group.
“We hope a lot of people join in. The walk is like water – with lots of people life flows in abundance,” said Keeshig.
The walk will travel through 44 municipalities and 11 First Nation communities beginning with BFN, traveling along County Road 6 to County Road 26 to Hwy. 21 to Hwy. 6 and visiting Wasaga Beach, Collingwood, and other Georgian Bay towns along the way. The group will cross to Manitoulin Island from Tobermory via ferry and continue along Highway 400/69 to Hwy. 12 to Hwy. 93 to Balm Beach Road to County Road 6, then back to Cedar Point after travelling through Midland and Penetanguishene on the last day. It is anticipated many will join the group as it travels through each area carrying Georgian Bay/Site 41 water, and ceremonial staff.
For More Information, please contact: MzhakdoKwe, Myiingan Doodem, Ojibwe-Pottawattami Anishinabe Kwe Vicki Monague