March 27, 2013

Native women walk the Mississippi

Native American women walking length of river, raising pollution awareness

By Jessica LarsenA modest copper bucket carries fresh, pure water from the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

About 1 1/2 quarts of the clear liquid will finish its journey at the river’s end in the Gulf of Mexico.

A group of Native American women are walking the length of the river—1,200 miles—in an effort to raise awareness about pollution.

“The water effects all of us. We are all water,” said walker Sharon Day, an Ojibwe tribe member and executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force. “We want people to recreate a relationship with the water, with themselves.”
Walking the Water: Indigenous women walk the Mississippi to raise awareness of water pollution

By Sharon Sander-PalmerIt was a very cold couple of days last week when an ambitious group of American Indian women made their way along the roads of Allamakee County with a very big goal--to walk the length of the Mississippi River from the headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico.

The walkers and their supporters left Lake Itasca State Park, MN March 1 after a traditional Ojibwe water ceremony where they collected a copper pail full of clear, fresh lake water which they are carrying the entire 1,200 miles to where the river empties into the Gulf at Venice, LA. It is here that they will pour the contents of the pail into the murky gulf waters, “giving the Mississippi River a drink of herself.”

Mississippi River Water Walk leader, Sharon Day, is a member of the Ojibwe tribe and Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force; an organization whose mission is to improve the health and education of indigenous people through a variety of programs. She lives just a block from the river in St. Paul, MN and has been involved in water issues in the past, being called upon to help with the process of making a spring in the Fort Snelling area of the Twin Cities a protected sacred site in 1998.

In 2003, she joined Josephine Mandamin, a grandmother in her lodge, on her walk around Lake Superior to raise awareness of water pollution, and more recently took part in the Four Directions Walk also known as the Mother Earth Water Walk in 2011. It was after that walk, when she asked herself what she could do next, that the beginning of this current journey began.
Comment:  For more on Native treks, see Nishiyuu Walkers Arrive in Ottawa and 175th Anniversary of Trail of Tears.

Below:  "One of the members of the Mississippi River Water Walkers walking beside the Mississippi River along Highway 76 near Effigy Mounds National Monument carrying the eagle feather staff and copper pail of water collected at the Mississippi River headwaters at Lake Itasca, MN. The group's 1,200-mile walk to the Gulf of Mexico is to raise awareness of water pollution and protection of resources." (Sharon Sander-Palmer.)

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