Josephine Mandamin, Walter-walker. Dazh-kan-zii-bi (Thames River), London, Ontario. April 6th, 2014
Today, we would like to pay homage to Josephine Mandamin, Anishinaabe grandmother and water-walker, who has been our inspiration for this blog and the Indigenous Message on Water community. In remembering her teachings, we would like to recommend the documentary Waterlife by Kevin McMahon (2009), and the video interview Sacred Water Walks by The Great Lakes Commons (2015).
Watch here the trailer of Waterlife in where Kevin McMahon features Josephine’s story as an inspirational example for action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWTu_fXgaqM
On April 4th, 2014, we picked Josephine up from Billy Bishop Airport, Toronto’s island airport in Lake Ontario. She was flying in from Thunder Bay. We went with Paula Marcotte, one of the members of the coalition who organized the Water Film Festival: Right or Privilege?. We took the ferry to the Island. It was raining. The seagulls were bobbing on the water.
After months of trying to contact Josephine, we finally got her email and, in less than a week, everything was set for her visit. “Manda” in Anishinaabemovin means wonder, and “min” means seed. Grandmother Josephine carries in her last name one of the Anishinaabe expressions to name corn, the wonder seed. Josephine is from the fish clan and, as a woman, she feels the responsibility to take care and protect Water.
Thus, in 2003, she had the idea to start walking, with her sister, around the Great Lakes. Her intention was to create awareness among the indigenous and non-indigenous communities who surround the Great Lakes, which are at risk because of the chemicals dumped by farms, sewage systems, and the mining industry. Josephine truly believes that Water is our Mother, and that’s the reason why, in the last 13 years, she has walked more than 17.000 kilometers, sharing the message of her ancestors with people of different ages and origins (follow her journeys since 2003 to the present here).
As she says in the video interview Ojibwa Grandmother Recounts Walk Around the Great Lakes (2008), as a result of her walks, new generations will know that there are grandmothers out there who are protecting Water. Josephine has understood that each lake has its own teaching. Lake Superior, for example, is the Mother of the lakes. Lake Michigan keeps the remains of the ancestors, such as rocks/grandfathers, that stand in a circle, and trees that stand in specific ways. Lake Huron is a unifier: it taught Josephine that there should be a man beside a woman during the walk. Lake Ontario is heavier than the rest of the lakes because of its pollution. “And we have to start doing our work!” Josephine repeats.
Watch Ojibwa Grandmother Recounts Walk Around the Great Lakes => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPega7E8Lhg&index=1&list=PL__TzU4_15OF9Nck8UrVhLyZYw711cbJo
On April 4th, 5th and 6th 2014, Grandmother Josephine Mandamin was our guest-speaker at the Water Film Festival: Right or Privilege? “If it’s for the Water, we have to do it!” she told us. During those three days, before and after the films and talks, she carefully read our anthology. We were really excited by how happy our compilation made her. One afternoon she shared with us the following words, to be included here in our blog:
… to protect Water, we have to connect with Her physically, mentally, and spiritually. In the mornings, before anything else, before even going to the washroom, we have to offer a pinch of Water to Mother, the Earth, pray for it, and then drink a sip. This is my uncle’s teaching: you have to give before you take (…) Many times I have had to cry for the Water. She is a Mother, but she can’t feed her children if she is polluted. You have to be a women to understand what to feed a child means.
Her teachings reminded us immediately of some texts from Indigenous Message on Water such as Mona Polacca’s, Sandy Beardy’s, Vito Apüshana’s, and the paintings by Achu Kantule. Josephine’s insistence of women’s role at this time is also present in the recent video interview by The Great Lake Commons, in which Josephine urges women to lead their communities in the protection of Water:
We have to take care of Mother, the Earth, and that’s what we are doing now, taking care of our Mother, the Earth, especially now in this age when she is really suffering, she is being polluted, she is being prosecuted, she is being sold, you know, all these things are happening to Her, it’s happening to us, women. So, I think about how these days women have to start thinking about bundles. We have to rethink about how important it is. So, we have to really know who we are as women, that we are very powerful women. We can be very instrumental in how things are changing… (video interview Every Step is a Prayer. Sacred Water Walks)
Watch video interview here, Every Step is a Prayer. Sacred Water Walks => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV5zD2GrAAg&list=PL__TzU4_15OF9Nck8UrVhLyZYw711cbJo&index=76
We built together the Water Film Festival: Right or Privilege?, thanks to the Indigenous Message on Water and The Council of Canadians, The Latin-American Canadian Solidarity Association, Western University Indigenous Services, and London Museum. Around 300 people participated in the weekend’s events and local organizations such as Wellington Water Watchers shared their own fight to defend the Guelph’s aquifer from the transnational company Nestlé.
Watch here the clasic Bottled life by Ursula Schenell => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czfSwjx4yYA
Josephine was direct with the audience: “And, after these reflections, what are you going to do?” Following Josephine’s question, there was an important moment of reflection on our own responsibility with Water in our daily lives. As Mike Nagy, director of Wellington Water Watchers, reminded us: it is not enough to reuse, reduce, and recycle. We also need to refuse!
Thank you, Josephine, for your teachings!
Until next week.
“Para las generaciones por venir”: Josephin Mandamin y sus caminatas por los Grandes Lagos
Josephine Mandamin, caminante de los Grandes Lagos, y Juan Guillermo Sánchez, co-editor del Mensaje Indígena de Agua, en London, Ontario. Abril 6 de 2014.