With the passing of Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, Canada has lost a visionary who made calling for cleaner water and greater water protection her life's work. Logging more than 10,000 miles on sacred water walks around the perimeter of all five of the Great Lakes and numerous other waterways around the world to raise awareness about the need to protect water, Grandmother Josephine was an embodiment of the phrase "walk the talk".
Ecologos and the Water Docs team are honoured to have worked and walked alongside Grandmother Josephine, and we send our heartfelt condolences to her family and community at this time of great loss.
Remembering Grandmother Josephine Mandamin
The water walk movement began in 2003 when Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, who was growing increasingly concerned with the pollution of lakes and rivers, was introduced to a prophecy from an elder within the Three Fires Midewiwin society warning that "water will cost as much as gold" by the year 2030. For the Anishinaabe, water is associated with Mother Earth and it is the responsibility of grandmothers to lead other women in praying for and protecting the water.
Josephine set out on her first walk in 2003 around the perimeter of Lake Superior to raise awareness about the abuse and disrespect of water, encouraging humanity to rekindle the sacred relationship and connection to Nibi (water). Since this initial walk, Josephine has walked 17,000km around the shorelines of all the Great Lakes and sparked a movement of water walkers who host their own community walks.
In total, it is estimated that she walked 23,000km, a distance the equivalent to half the circumference of the Earth.
Josephine completed her final sacred water walk in 2017 with The Great Lakes Water Walk which Ecologos and Water Docs were founding partners of with Nibi Emosaawdamajig. We were so honoured to walk with Josephine that day and are forever grateful for her advocacy and her teachings.
Photos from G Horton Baptiste. You can find these and more on the Great Lakes Water Walk Facebook page.
We would encourage everyone to continue carrying Grandmother Josephine’s teachings about Nibi (water) with them in their hearts as we move forward into a critical time for our planet. There has never been more urgency for humanity to make the connection with the Earth once again and take steps to align ourselves with sustainable ways of thinking, behaving and being. You can follow Josephine’s great niece - Autumn Peltier, who is carrying on her Auntie’s legacy - on Facebook and Instagram.
To learn more about Josephine’s legacy, check out the trailer for The Water Journey, a documentary that follows her quest to raise awareness about water’s fragile existence. It was an Official Selection at ImagineNative 2012 and the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival 2012, and screened at the Water Docs Film Festival in 2013.