Coming off a three day symposium on water and wild rice (Nibi and Manoomin: Bridging World Views Symposium) in Mahnomen on the White Earth Reservation, and reading the update on the two young women making their way from St. Paul, MN to Hudson Bay by canoe has centered my thoughts on women and water. In the Ojibwe traditional view, women are the caretakers of water. It is their responsibility to protect and take care of the water on this earth. Water is life giving, women are the bearers of new life.
In Mahnomen this week I had the privilege of being part of a traditional Ojibwe Water Ceremony, led by Josephine Mandamin, the grandmother who when asked “What will YOU do?” to protect our water answered with a journey that has taken her in a walk around all the Great Lakes and to each of the four bodies of salt water around North America (Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico). She is calling attention to our water, and the need to protect it for all peoples.
Water – we can’t live without it, yet most of us rarely even think about it when we turn on a tap, or step into the shower. Do you know where your water comes from? Mine comes from a well in the backyard, but in the thirteen years we have lived here we have not tested it beyond the initial testing when it was dug. That is complacency. We expect that it won’t change, and that for the most part, it will always be there. What would happen if your taps were turned off for a few weeks? If everyone’s tap in your community was shut off?
Water gets our attention when it is contaminated, flooding our homes or washing away our soil. The grand displays of water are celebrated with national status (Niagra Falls, Yellowstone and Yosemite, Voyageurs National Park) and even local for us Minnesotan’s in the case of Gooseberry State Park, Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and White Water State Park). We need a new approach to water – not just one that admires the grandness or focuses on problems, but one that recognizes the absolute need and essentialness (is that a word?) of clean water for life. Everyone should have the right to clean water.