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Sacred Sites: Mother Earth Water Walk

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Water is the most sacred of substances, keeping us all alive. Since 2003 the Mother Earth Water Walkers have been walking the perimeters of the Great Lakes to draw attention to the importance of water and the role it plays in our lives.

For the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk, walkers carried ocean water from the four directions for miles, carried by “Anishinaabe women and men walking side by side,” the Mother Earth Water Walkers organization said in a release. This year’s walk began with the Western Water Walk on April 10, in Olympia, Washington, and passed through Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile on April 20 the Southern Water Walk left Gulfport, Mississippi, traveling through Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Iowa and then into Wisconsin. The Eastern Water Walk started out from Machais, Maine, on May 7, and took them across part of Canada, through Quebec, Ontario and into Michigan and Wisconsin.

Up in Canada, Churchill, Manitoba, was the starting point for the Northern Water Walk. On May 21 those walkers, carrying water from Hudson Bay, traveled by train to Winnipeg, then carrying the water on foot through Manitoba, Ontario and into Minnesota and Wisconsin. In total, the Walkers took more than 10.4 million steps, carrying the “healing and sacred saltwater from the four directions,” and converging in Bad River, Wisconsin, on June 12, where they united the water in Lake Superior, where the first Water Walk began. The walks, the statement said, “also raised awareness of the need to take care of the water, and to help our Mother Earth who is struggling to survive and to provide for all her children.”

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The Mother Earth Water Walkers have asked people to be mindful of and pray for water on June 21, the 2011 National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places.

“The Anishinaabe, also known as the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi, are the caretakers of the eastern woodlands and Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system on Earth,” the Water Walkers, said in their statement. “Anishinaabe women, as givers-of-life, are responsible for speaking for, protecting and carrying our water.”

Here, one of the original water walkers, Josephine Mandamin, Ojibway, a grandmother and elder, relates how the walks came about.