The Women Who Walk for the Water: Grandmother Josephine Mandamin's Legacy

In ceremony such as a water walk, only women carry the water, indicating that women are caretakers of water, and carry life within themselves (childbirth).

— Grandmother Josephine Mandamin

Recently the water community lost a beloved and respected water protector and teacher - Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, who walked 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 left behind the gift of her teachings, particularly emphasizing the important role that women play in the protection of earth’s lifeblood. For the Anishinaabe, water is associated with Mother Earth and it is the responsibility of grandmothers to lead other women in protecting the water. When Josephine 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 - she 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.

The Great Lakes Water Walk, 2017. The largest sacred water walk thus far, inspired by Grandmother Josephine Mandamin.

The Great Lakes Water Walk, 2017. The largest sacred water walk thus far, inspired by Grandmother Josephine Mandamin.

Other grandmothers eventually joined her in the walks around all five of the Great Lakes and, with the support of many people and financial assistance from donations, they accomplished the amazing feat of awareness-building about the critical water shortage and the political and spiritual issues around water. Most importantly, they motivated other women to take part in sacred water walking by emphasizing the important role that women play in the protection of the earth’s waters.

Autumn Peltier is one such water protector walking in her Great Aunt’s footsteps - literally.


Josephine’s Great Niece Autumn Peltier began learning the teachings at a young age and has already made significant waves worldwide. From requesting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau keep his promise to her people to telling a room full of adults at the UN to warrior up to speaking at over 200 engagements globally about water issues, Autumn has accrued an impressive resume for a 14-year-old.

She began her work in 2015 when she first attended the Children’s Climate Summit in Sweden where she shared her story about the sacredness of water and the importance of clean drinking water for Indigenous people in Canada and especially in Ontario. Since then Autumn has been creating awareness, sharing water ceremonies with young women and girls, participating in sacred water walks that she learned from her great auntie Josephine Mandamin who initiated the Great Lakes Water Walks before Autumn was born. Autumn has travelled over 150,000 km and spoken at over 200 engagements all over Canada, the USA and overseas.

She also speaks on committees dealing with the Great Lakes, women’s circles, youth groups, schools, ceremonies and countless conferences. Her biggest event was speaking before world leaders on World Water Day in March 2018 at United Nations Headquarters in New York City where she told world leaders to “Warrior Up”.

We couldn’t be more proud to honour the legacy of Grandmother Josephine Mandamin by presenting the annual Water Warrior Award to both her and her great niece Autumn Peltier at the 2019 Water Docs Film Festival on Wednesday, March 20.

Autumn will join us in person to accept the awards and speak. Beloved Grandmother Josephine will be with us in spirit, and in the hearts and feet of all of you who are carrying on her teachings and walking in her footsteps to take #ActionForWater. The evening will include film screenings and a panel discussion.

This event is FREE, but seating is limited. Please reserve yours before it fills up to ensure you get a seat!