By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY – The Water Walker children’s book featuring the story of Water Walker Josephine Mandamin was a hit during two school visits on Nov. 2 in Thunder Bay.
“We saw 40 kids that were in Grade 2 and 3 this morning (at Nor’wester View Public School),” says Joanne Robertson, an Atikameksheng Anishnawbek citizen who wrote and illustrated the 36-page book. “That was really fun. They all had really good questions.”
Robertson adds that the afternoon presentation for the whole school at Bishop E.Q. Jennings School “went very well.”
“(The students) really paid attention and the last question one young (student) asked was: ‘On this last walk you did, how many people were there,’” Robertson says. “And (Josephine) said: ‘Well, counting them all, there were probably a 1,000 people.’ And the whole gym started cheering. They clapped after every question, but for that one they were really enthusiastic. So she had touched them in talking about her story.”
Mandamin says it is important to encourage young people to look after the water for future generations.
“I really encourage them to be grandmothers and grandfathers in the future,” Mandamin says. “They are going to be our future and I want them to have respect for the water, to really understand that they have to take care of the water, not only for themselves but for their children and their great-grandchildren.”
Mandamin says the artwork in the book helps readers to understand more about the Water Walk than if she were to just speak about it.
“It really tells a lot about the Water Walk,” Mandamin says. “It explains a lot more in pictures than if I were to say it or do an audio. The pictures really tell a lot.”
Mandamin says she never thought about doing a book about the Water Walk when she started out in 2003 with a walk around Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world. She has since walked around all five Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence River, across Turtle Island (North America) to Lake Superior and around other lakes and rivers.
“It never even dawned on me that I would be walking all these Great Lakes, the rivers and the migration walks,” Mandamin says. “It never dawned on me to do that. I was just going to walk Lake Superior and that was it.”
Robertson decided to write the book after helping out with Mandamin’s Water Walks in 2011, 2015 and 2017.
“I started working with Josephine in 2011 on her Water Walk from the four directions to Lake Superior,” Robertson says. “After the 2017 walk I thought it would be good to continue Josephine’s message if there was a book or something so that we could continue to spread the word even though she was finished walking.”
Mandamin says the book, which was published by Second Story Press, is worth more than the $16.95 retail price.
“It’s really worth its weight in gold,” Mandamin says.
Mandamin included her mailing address in the book so people can write to tell her what they are doing to protect the water.
“It is always nice to hear from people, especially the ones that have walked with the water,” Mandamin says. “It’s really very heartwarming to hear from them, how they have experienced the walk and how it has changed their lives.”
Mandamin was inspired to do the Water Walks by the prophecy that warns water will become scarce and expensive in the future if people do not reverse their carelessness with the environment.