This is the story of an incredible woman, five teachers, thousands of students and how water connected us all.
In the year 2000, a 60-year old Anishinaabe woman sat across from an ogima and listened carefully as he shared a prophecy. He told her that by the year 2030 water would be worth as much as gold. And then he asked her: What are you going to do about it?
After almost 3 years of contemplation the lady answered ogima’s question. She walked. By the year 2008 and 25 000 kilometers later, this incredible woman had circumnavigated all five Great Lakes, bringing awareness of the need to protect water.
Fast forward to the spring of 2017. Five educators would meet met at Google headquarters in Seattle Washington with an incredible opportunity to leverage the power of technology to make a difference. Our team proposed to use Google Earth to take students on a voyage down the Great Lakes. The story would help our children understand that the Great Lakes were great BUT they were also at risk. One year later, “Blue Gold” would become the first ever teacher authored Voyageur story to be launched on Google Earth.
In early May of this year, my son and I were walking along a small lake which empties directly into Lake Superior and we passed an elderly Anishinaabe woman, who carried a copper bucket and an eagle head staff. As she passed, Kai and I wondered who she might be, why she’d be walking with a copper bucket and what might be in it. The moment passed and the opportunity to ask her was lost. A few weeks later, amazingly, we got our answer.
Through sheer coincidence, or perhaps, fate, we found Nokomis Josephine Mandamin on the cover of a children’s book, titled “The Water Walker” and we learned her story. This incredible woman had walked the same journey our Google Earth story aspired to take students on. Ironically, we shared the same community, at the head of Lake Superior, in Thunder Bay and I had known NOTHING about her. I wasn’t going to let her pass me by again.
I invited Nokomis to my classroom.
Josephine and my students launched into the Blue Gold Voyageur story. Together they journeyed down the Great Lakes; around our Sleeping Giant, through canals and locks and over Niagara Falls. I’m not sure who was more in awe, Nokomis or my students. But I can tell you for certain, when Josephine shared her own personal experiences of walking around those same 5 Great Lakes, it was my students who were awe struck.
And then my students spoke.
They knew Nokomis would no longer be able to carry on her walks due to her recent diagnosis of Parkison’s disease. My wonderful students, my difference makers, told Nokomis that they had a plan to become Junior Water Walkers. They were going to learn about, adopt, protect and walk for a body of water. They were also going to invite other classes from around the world to do the same. I’m proud and humbled to tell you that, to date, we have 126 classes, committed to walking in honour of Josephine and for water.
To learn more about the Junior Water Walkers please visit our webpage and consider joining us!