She Walked for the Waters

Celebrate the life and work of a remarkable Anishinaabe’Ikwe this International Women’s Day

Erich Otten, Arts & Culture Editor

PC – Ayse Gursoz

Josephine Mandamin is a name well known throughout Turtle Island as the Anishinaabe Grandmother, or Nokomis, who started the Mother Earth Water Walks — also known as the Water Walkers. In the spring of 2003, after being presented with a Midewiwin Prophecy that warned water will cost as much as gold by 2030, Nokomis Josephine and a group of grandmothers began walking for the water (Nibi). They set out with an eagle staff and a copper bucket in each hand to hike the circumference of the Great Lakes. This was done with the goal to raise consciousness among all peoples, from each direction, about the pollution happening to the Nibi here on Turtle Island. Nokomis Josephine’s goal, and that of the other water walkers, is to remind us all that the Nibi is sacred, living, and has its own spirit. To remind us that we must treat the Nibi in a good way because we are all the Nibinaabe (Water People).

According to Anishinabek News, since 2003 Nokomis Josephine has personally walked over 25,000 kilometers. She did this while praying for the Nibi and raising awareness for the global water crisis. Nokomis Josephine died at the age of 77 on February 2nd, 2019. Her work is continued by water walkers Shirley Williams and her niece Elizabeth Osawamick and their organization Nibi Emosaawdamajig, or Those who Walk for the Water. Nokomis Josephine was honoured with two awards from the Canadian government: the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2016, and the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Decoration in 2018 to recognize her work and dedication for Anishinaabe leadership and reconciliation between all treaty people.

She is also featured in the 2017 children’s book titled “Water Walkers” authored by Misko Anungo Kwe (Red Star Woman).

Nokomis Josephine’s shared an important message with the world: “The water is sick…and people need to really fight for that water, to speak for that water, to love that water.”