HOW SCHOOLS CAN GET INVOLVED
The All Nations Grand River Water Walk will take place from September 17 - 23, 2023.
WHAT IS A WATER WALK?
A water walk is based on Anishinaabe ceremonial water teachings. We walk to honour Nibi (water), to speak and to pray to her spirit, and to offer petitions so that there will be healthy rivers, lakes, and oceans for future generations. During the walk, we carry water in a copper pail from the source of the river to the end of the river. It is a sacred ceremony while we are walking and the water is in motion. We move like water, continuously each day, until we reach our destination. The water walk is a time for prayers or songs to help Nibi become pure and clean and continuously flow. We carry asemaa (tobacco) to offer to any streams or rivers that we cross. We also follow walk protocols to show respect for our ancestors, grandmothers, Mother Earth, and ourselves.
ABOUT THE GRAND RIVER WATER WALK
Mary Anne Caibaiosai was inspired to organize the All Nations Grand River Water Walk after participating in “For the Earth and Water Walk" in 2017, which was led by Josephine-Baa Mandamin, the first water walker. Josephine-Baa, who passed into the spirit world in 2019, walked around all of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. She wisely said, “It is time for all two-leggeds to walk for the water.” Mary Anne has led a water walk each year along the Grand River since 2018. She welcomes people from all Nations to join these ceremonies.
The 2023 walk will be held from September 17 - 23 and begin near Dundalk, Ontario, at the headwaters of the Grand River. The walkers will travel south along the banks of the river to Lake Erie. They will begin walking each day before 5:00 a.m. and continue until mid-afternoon. A GPS spot on the pail will enable the public to see where the walkers are located. Follow along at grandriverwaterwalk.com or on the group's Facebook page in September.
CAN STUDENTS JOIN THE WALK?
The walk is sacred and ceremonial. Anyone who participates in the walk must respect this and follow the walk protocols for quiet prayer and song while walking. While this would be very difficult for students in elementary school, it may be possible for high school students taking an Indigenous Studies course to participate, provided there are no more than 6 students, they are accompanied by a teacher, and the students have agreed to abide by the walk protocols posted on our website. If your student group meets these guidelines, email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire further. We suggest that you plan to drop the students off at a convenient starting point along the route and then pick them up further along the route.
HOW ELSE CAN SCHOOLS GET INVOLVED?
Schools can support the walk by:
Organizing a fundraiser to help cover some of the costs faced by the walkers for food and lodging
Organizing a meal for the walkers on the day that they pass through your community
Letting other people know that the walk is happening and how they can help
IDEAS FOR LESSONS AND PROJECTS
There are many activities that students of all ages can undertake to explore the meaning of water walks and support the protection of our waterways, including the Grand River Watershed. Here are a few ideas:
Do some research about water walks. When did they start and why? How many water walks are happening this year? What water issues are they trying to address? Which Indigenous groups are leading these activities? Are non-Indigenous people always involved as well? What are the advantage of Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups joining together for water walks? Are there any disadvantages? Gather photos from the internet and map them out or create a display to share with others at your school.
Visit the Grand River or one of her many tributaries to see, smell and hear the sounds of the river community. Take note of human activity around the river and classify it as helpful, harmful, or neutral. Write a poem, draw a picture, or tell a story! While you are there, clean up litter. If you are in town and near a small creek that has been turned into a drainage canal, you can investigate some of the sources of pollution (e.g., roads and nearby industries) that put pressure on the creek. You may also see some wildlife using urban creeks. Contact us if you need help planning or running your field trip.
Older students can participate in water testing to determine the water quality of a local creek or the Grand River. You can also investigate what animals are living there, which is another indicator of water quality. There are resources for doing river studies available online.
Make some art! There are many examples of water-inspired art online. After visiting the river you can invite students to create art, poetry, writing, drama, song, or dance that shows respect for the water.
Invite a guest speaker to come to your class or school assembly, or meet you at the river! If you would like to invite a speaker from the Grand River Water Walk, email email@example.com. Please note that speakers are not available during the water walk from September 17-25, 2023.
Start a project at your school to find out if people are using water wisely and encourage them to practice water conservation in everyday life.
“The Water Walker,” by Joanne Robertson (Second Story Press, 2017). This children's picture book tells the story of Nakomis Josephine Mandamin and how she started the water walks. https://secondstorypress.ca/kids/the-water-walker
Suitable for older students: “Why We Walk,” by Mary Anne Caibaiosai for Alternatives Journal, February, 2019.
Short interview with Josephine-Baa Mandamin, “Sacred Water Walk.” Published by the Great Lakes Commons, July 22, 2015.
“Water Journey,” a 90-minute film about Josephine-Baa Mandamin and the Water Walks that she undertook.
YouTube trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp-6olT0i2A