Treaty 2 Territory- The Anishinaabek (Ojibwe) believe the earth to be their mother and therefore the waters to be the blood that runs in her veins. From the great oceans to the underground wellsprings, the waters provide life to all living things on Mother Earth. In the springtime, the waters gush as Mother Earth cleans herself from her long winter sleep to prepare for the hard work of bringing forth new life. Just as it is important to keep one’s blood clean for a healthy body, so too is it essential to keep the waters clean to have a healthy and sustainable earth.
As explained by Mohawk Elder and Author Tom Porter, “The water is not just water, it is sacred. Every water is holy everywhere in the whole world. The water has spirit, it has a soul, it has life in it. The Creator said to the water, ‘And your job, Water, is to move, to look for the humans, look for the birds, look for the bears, look for the deer.’ That is why the water is moving. It’s doing its job, looking around for the life. And then it goes into the big river and then into the big ocean and then back into the clouds. Around and around refreshing because it gives life. That is what the waters do, they quench our thirst, and they clean and purify our body so that we may have a healthy, good life. Then when you listen to the oceans and the big lakes, you hear the heartbeat of the water. You see that it is living. The big waves come, and they hit Mother Earth. It is the same thing as what is going on right in your heart. It is beating with a rhythm because it is living.”
HONOURING WATER (NIBI)
First Nations recognize the sacredness of our water, the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of protecting our water from pollution, drought, and waste. Water is the giver of all life and without clean water all life will perish.
Water is the most life sustaining gift on Mother Earth and is the interconnection among all living beings. Water sustains us, flows between us, within us, and replenishes us. It is the blood of Mother Earth and, as such, cleanses not only herself, but all living things. Water comes in many forms, and all are needed for the health of Mother Earth and for our health.
Our sacred water teaches us that we can have great strength to transform even the tallest mountain while being soft, pliable, and flexible. It gives us the spiritual teaching that we too flow into the Great Ocean at the end of our life journey. It also shapes the land and gives us the great gifts of the rivers, lakes, ice, and oceans. Water is the home of many living things that contribute to the health and well-being of everything not in the water.
“Indigenous peoples believe that it is our responsibility to maintain clean water when dealing with waste management, in order to maintain biodiversity. Our understanding is that all people must ensure resources are protected for generations to come, for our children and out children’s children. So, it is essential to protect and sustain future generations.”
Women are the keepers of the water and have a strong, spiritual relationship with water. In First Nations, women are the caregivers of water, often called the “Keepers or Carriers of the Water.” Water bundle holders carry the responsibilities of sharing traditional water teachings, songs, prayers, and ceremonies that were passed on by their ancestors.
One Anishinaabe woman Elder (now gone to the spirit world) took her responsibility for the water seriously. Josephine Mandamin led the Mother Earth Water Walk, a journey around the Great Lakes to raise awareness about the plight of the waters and the need for action. While one might be upset by the notion that Indigenous people care more about the water that than the rest of society, it should be pointed out that Josephine walked around the Great Lakes to reinforce her point. Josephine Mandamin grew up on Manitoulin Island, eating fresh fish daily and drinking straight from Georgian Bay. During her lifetime, she had seen the ruin of the Great Lakes– the fish killed by invasive species, the harbors poisoned, and now, the water evaporating into the clouds of global warming. Since the lakes provide drinking water to 35 million people, one might think the water’s health would be an important public issue.
Autumn Peltier, the great niece of Josephine Mandarin, who turns 18 this year, has since emerged as a powerful voice in the water protection movement, In 2016, at age 12, Autumn Peltier came face-to-face with Justin Trudeau and, in front of hundreds of people in a conference hall in Gatineau, Que., she challenged his environmental record, extracting a promise from the Prime Minister that he would “protect the water.” Presently she is the chief water commissioner for Anishinabek Nation in Ontario.
“In my culture, my people believe that water is one of the most sacred elements. It’s something we honour. My people believe that when we’re in the womb, we live in water for nine months and our mother carries us in the water. As a fetus, we learn our first two teachings: how to love the water and how to love our mother. As women, we’re really connected to the water in a spiritual way. We believe that we’re in ceremony for nine months when we carry a baby. Another way to look at it is that water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth, and Mother Earth is female.”
– Autumn Peltier
Algonquin Water Song: https://vimeo.com/273112273
Submitted by Renée McGurry, Earth Lodge Development Helper
Last modified: March 30, 2022