Ojibwe women walk to protect sacred water


BAD RIVER, Wis. - On April 21, a group of dedicated Anishinaabe women began a 1,300-mile walk from Bad River, Wis. around Lake Superior, hoping to complete the circle at the Bad River starting point in June. The women hope to create awareness of the sacredness of water and importance of keeping the waters clean not only in Gitchigoome, but everywhere.

The journey will take them from Wisconsin to Minnesota, Ontario, Canada and Michigan. "It is anticipated that challenges will be made by other Native women living around the Great Lakes - we encourage them to walk with us," said coordinator Andrea Metansinine. "We are committed to do this for the protection of our waters and ensure the everlasting use of the water for our children, our grandchildren, and the next generations to come." For the entire distance, the women will be carrying a copper bucket of water and an eagle staff to symbolize the traditional role of women as water protectors in Anishinaabe teachings.

The idea for the walk came about last year at a Sun Dance in Pipestone, Minn. An elder prophesied that in 30 years, "the water is going to be so polluted that it won't be fit to drink." According to the same elder, water will cost the same as an ounce of gold. "We are looking at almost $375 for a bottle of water," said Metansinine. The group chose Lake Superior for this walk, hopefully the first of many such walks each year, because of its location. Most of the women come from nearby Thunder Bay, Ontario. Bad River, located on the south shore of Superior on Wisconsin's northeast side, is also where the migration of the Anishinaabe from Canada was completed in the 1700s.

The group will be briefly resting in rustic shelters along the way. "We are struggling with funds, as the ladies recently had to stay in motel rooms due to weather conditions," Metansinine said. The group also plans to meet with people along the way to discuss the threats of pollution and how they can help reduce these threats. They are looking for environmental organizations willing to donate brochures and/or posters with data pertaining to water conservation.

The Great Lakes are the world's largest source of surface freshwater. Lake Superior itself contains 32 billion gallons of water. With its shores facing ever-growing human population numbers, pollution sources from mill deposits along the shores, taconite tailing dumping along the north shore, and discharges from wood pulp mills already contributing to the mercury levels, the lake is also downwind from the agricultural areas of the United States' upper Midwest. This is the source of many airborne pesticides in the summer. Scientists predict these factors will contribute to irreversible changes to the water quality. One has to understand that these problems have arisen over a relatively short time (70 years). The lake takes 185 years to "flush itself out."

"We have begun this journey with little funds," said Metansinine, "but we leave with pockets full of determination, motivation, strength of mind, will power and purpose."

The women were last located at Duluth, Minn. hoping to arrive in Thunder Bay on May 3. For more information, contact Andrea Metansinine at (807) 623-4811 or e-mail annmetan@tbaytel.net.