There’s something special about walking by water. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent the better part of my life in, on or around water. Living inThunder Bay, at the head of Lake Superior, provides ample opportunity to experience water at its finest. Cascading over large slabs of granite, tumbling over waterfalls, trickling through a moss lined creek or lapping at a sandy shore, water does something for my soul. My understanding and respect for water came from my upbringing. My dad comes from a family of Scottish fly fisherman and for me, fishing was a religion and the water was my church. It was at the water where I acquired a love and appreciation for our natural word.
And then, one year ago Nokomis walked into my life. On five occasions I was blessed with the opportunity to learn from her. She was an incredible woman, an Anishnaabe grandmother and a water walker. She walked 25 000 kilometers around the Great Lakes bringing awareness of the need to love, respect and pray for nibi. Nokomis had such a deeper understanding and connection to water; one that we all can learn from. She was one of my greatest teachers and I feel incredibly blessed that water connected us.
Throughout the year Junior Water Walker classes have been learning about, protecting and adopting bodies of water in their areas. You can check out the #JuniorWaterWalkers hashtag to see what many classes have done for water. I’ve also blogged about our learning here.
On Fridays in May, classes are now planning their water walk. Many classes have reached out to their Indigenous Knowledge Keepers to join and guide them on their walks.
Through Nokomis’ husband Andrew, I met three wonderful women, Sheila, Leanna and Kim who were mentored by Nokomis. In fact, I have come to realize that the last time I met Nokomis was the first time I crossed paths with Sheila and Leanna.
These beautiful women are the “For Love of Rivers Water Walkers” who are water walking to bring healing to our local rivers, where seven Aninashaabe teens have died. They will be walking on June 15 and I am honoured to join them. Together, I truly hope we can find healing.
In preparation for our school wide water walk, my teaching partner Melinda Shaughnessy, our principal, Tony Rizzo and our Junior Water Walker leaders learned so much from our new friends. Together, with guidance from Tesa Fiddler, our Native Resource Teacher and Joanne Robertson, author of The Water Walker, we planned a walk that was incredibly meaningful and powerful while also respecting and preserving traditions, ceremonies and protocols.
It was a wonderful day where the For the Lover of Rivers Water Walkers” led our Junior Water Walker leaders, who in turn led the youngest of our Junior Water Walkers. So much learning took place. There’s still so much more to do.
Miigwech, Nokomis for teaching us all.