Mother Earth Water Walk 2011: An Overview

By Paul DeMain
Photos by D.Kakkak & Kimber Acosta
News From Indian Country July 2011

The Mother Earth Water Walk was one of the most inspiring events that I have had a chance to observe in some time. While envisioned by Anishinabekwe Josephine Mandamin of Thunder Bay, Ontario and several other Native women as far back as a decade ago, the Mother Earth Water Walk 2011 was by far the most intense adventure to date.

water_walk_pic_6.jpgSince 2003, Mandamin with helpers from across the globe walked each one of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway and now, from all four directions of North America. The photos and events can be found on the net at: and much more extensive postings at the Water Walk 2011 Facebook page where you can review the results of their efforts.

Launching the walk this year was the Western Doorway from Aberdeen, Washington after filling a copper vessel with salt water from the Pacific Ocean. The walkers, at times one or two individuals, and then expanding to dozens as they approached and moved through several reservations, walking thousands of miles. They walked across the states of Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and into Wisconsin to the Bad River Reservation.

water_walk_pic_2.jpgAfter launching the Western Walkers, Josephine Mandamin went south to help Sharon Day fill a vessel to carry the salt water from the Southern route. The southern route was launched one year from the great gulf oil spill of 2010 and so, one year later, on April 20, 2011 from Gulfport, Mississippi, the water left the gulf and traveled thru Mississippi and Tennessee during a time period in which on one day alone, over 100 tornados touched down in the south but the Water Walkers saw only sunlight while their friends texted them to get into a shelter.

Soon after, walking thru Arkansas and into Missouri, the walkers had to contend with flooding all along the Mississippi river and roads they were following north.  From Missouri, into Iowa and southern Wisconsin the walkers moved along, now picking up supporters closer to home, and from greater awareness as news of the walk became public.

water_walk_pic_3.jpgOn May 7th, the eastern direction filled its copper vessel with salt water from the Atlantic Ocean and with great fanfare from supporters and wonderful send -off from Bangor, Maine the Eastern Water Walkers got started. With representatives of the Passamaquoddy, Cherokee, Blackfeet, Penobscot, Micmac and other Maine and Canadian tribes in attendance they walked from Picture Rock, an ancient petroglyph site where they gathered the water to begin their walk thru Maine, Quebec, Ontario, all the way westward to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and into Wisconsin.

The final leg of the four directions was begun on May 21st from Churchill, Manitoba. A train that runs from Winnipeg to Churchill (there is no road to Churchill) was stalled somewhere along the way by the washout or flooding of the railroad line. In order to obtain the water from the Hudson Bay, the Water Walkers had to find a bush airplane pilot to jump them into Churchill, fill the vessel and return them to the train in order to bring it to Winnipeg were the Water Walkers on foot took over.  No problem for the Water Walkers was too big to overcome, this was their mission. From Winnipeg, south into Ontario, and then into the United States at International Falls and south thru Minnesota to Wisconsin the copper vessel continued its’ journey

water_walk_pic_4.jpgAt this point, the Western Water Walkers waited for the Northern Walkers in Duluth, Minnesota in order to walk together. A few day later, in Wisconsin, the North and West Walkers met up with the Southern Walkers at the Lake Superior Visitors Center near Ashland, Wisconsin where all three vessels where carried into the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation and the old Odanah Pow wow Grounds, where they rested a bit, heading east to their final destination the next day. The Eastern Water Walkers met them at the Three Fires Mide School on Highway 2, just east of the Bad River Reservation where a celebration feast and dance were held on Saturday June 11 and ceremonies were conducted as all 4 water carrying copper vessels, and walkers were now together.

water_walk_pic_5.jpgFinally, with all 4 groups together, the water was carried to Waverly Beach on the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation of Northern Wisconsin were Spirit Bundles from each direction where offered to Lake Superior and finally the water mixed in a ceremonial and public ending to a walk that included millions of footsteps and hundreds, if not perhaps thousands of people across the globe who believe in clean water for the generations to come.

Our thanks to the Water Walkers, Bad River Ojibwe Tribe, Three Fires Society and many others through-out the globe who assisted and News From Indian Country in covering this event -- your support, advice and tolerance of the cameras was greatly appreciated by us, and the thousands of viewers across the world who joined with you in tribulation, prayer, contemplation and support of your efforts and ours - Migwetch.

On The Net: Digital Library
FB - Water Walk 2011
or Google Mother Earth Water Walk
for thousands of postings from people who experienced and followed the Water Walkers helping them “be the news”.

The ICTV crew dedicate these photos to our colleague and brother – Amoose