Content on this page approved by Elder Shirley Wiliams from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory.
Nibi E-mosaawdamojig – the Water Walkers and the Sacred Water Circle are two organizations that work together to educate and create awareness through various means about the need to protect our most precious resource – water.
These organizations are the result of the continual efforts by some remarkable women. Elder Shirley Williams belongs to and works with both organizations.
Elder Williams prepared and provided permission to use a PowerPoint presentation she created for Fleming students in 2019. The slide presentation is embedded below. Scroll through this powerful talk full of information, spiritual teachings, and the research and conclusions by Dr. Masaru Emoto and visual information including many photographs.
For additional background on this topic listen to the CBC Live Radio episode below aired on April 21, 2023 in which Elder Williams shares her message on why Water is Sacred:
End of a 108 km walk around Rice Lake in 2013 with participants of all ages. Photo by Jane Zednik.
On April 5th, 2010 Trent Chancellor Dr. Tom Jackson delivered a dynamic opening address at the two-hour Community Workshop on Water Matters: Protecting, Conserving and Sharing Our Water on April 5th, 2010. He opened the workshop with the simple statement: “Without Water We Die”.
Indigenous communities have historically recognized the importance of water protection and water conservation:
Water is the most life sustaining gift on Mother Earth and is the interconnection among all living beings. Water sustains us, flows between us, within us, and replenishes us. Water is the blood of Mother Earth and, as such, cleanses not only herself, but all living things. Water comes in many forms and all are needed for the health of Mother Earth and for our health. The sacred water element teaches us that we can have great strength to transform even the tallest mountain while being soft, pliable, and flexible. Water gives us the spiritual teaching that we too flow into the Great Ocean at the end of our life journey. Water shapes the land and gives us the great gifts of the rivers, lakes, ice, and oceans. Water is the home of many living things that contribute to the health and well-being of everything not in the water.
…. As Indigenous peoples, First Nations recognize the sacredness of our water, the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of protecting our water from pollution, drought and waste (Assembly of First Nations – Honouring Water).
One of the expert panelists at the 2010 Water Matters workshop was Professor Emeritus Shirley Williams who argued for the recognition and need to include spirituality in science. “Everything has a spirit,” she said. “From the trees to the plants and to the water.”
Shirley is a member of the Bird Clan of the Ojibway and Odawa First Nations of Canada. Her Anishinaabe name is Migizi ow Kwe meaning Eagle Woman. She was born and raised at Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island and attended St. Joseph’s Residential School in Spanish, Ontario. She holds several degrees, including a BA in Native Studies, a Native Language Instructors Program diploma, a Masters in Environmental Studies, and an honorary Ph.D. for her outstanding achievement in post-secondary education pedagogy, her advocacy of Indigenous language teaching, and her ongoing inspirational community leadership. Retired in 2004 after 18 years teaching at Trent University and 18 summers for Lakehead University for NLIP, she serves as an Elder for numerous organizations, including Trent University and Sir Sandford Fleming. She continues to teach part-time at Trent University and other educational institutions. She also advises the Chiefs of Ontario and Aboriginal Physicians of Canada on health programming. Her work has resulted in significant service delivery changes in Sudbury’s major regional healthcare centres and, most recently, Toronto General Hospital.
She has worked with Williams Consulting and Andrea J Williams since 1984.
In the audience was Dr. William’s niece, Liz Osawamick:
Elizabeth (Liz) Osawamick is an Anishinaabe Midewiwin-kwe community leader, Water Walker/activist, jingle dress dancer, devoted parent and professional teacher. She is President of Anishnaabemowin Teg, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, teaching and developing Anishnaabe language and cultural pride.
During the Water Matters workshop both Shirley and Liz, who have shared Traditional Anishinaabe Water Teachings with the Peterborough community, were inspired by the water walking journeys and teachings of the late Josephine Mandamin to create local Water Awareness Walks.
2010 Trent Chancellor Dr. Tom Jackson. Photo credit Trent University.
Josephine Mandamin (Anishinaabemowin: Biidaasige-ba - "The one who comes with the light") (February 21, 1942 – February 22, 2019) was an Anishinaabe First Nations grandmother, elder and founding member of the water protectors movement. She was a survivor of the Canadian Indian residential school system and founder of the Mother Earth Water Walkers. During her 77 years, she walked about 25,000 miles around the shorelines of all the Great Lakes, and other waterways of North America, carrying a bucket of water, to bring awareness to the need to protect the waters from pollution.
The Water Awareness Walks in the Kawarthas which are the vision of Elder Shirley Williams and Liz Osawamick occur on the symbolic date of the Mother’s Day weekend not only celebrating our mothers and grandmothers, but also remembering and honouring our Earth Mother and her life-giving Nibi (Sacred Water) that nourishes and sustains all Creation. The Elders teach us that our actions today will affect the next seven generations to come.
Click on this link for a video on the preparation for a Water Walk.
For more information one can visit the Sacred Water Circle website or watch this 12 minute talk by Elder Dorothy Taylor. In the fall of 2020, Peterborough GreenUp recorded Dorothy speaking about the sacredness of water. It was shown at the virtual ReFrame documentary film festival in January 2021. Dorothy Taylor is an Elder from Curve Lake First Nation, Canada, who founded the Sacred Water Circle. Also visit Teaching Turtle – Sacred Water Circle and the Sacred Water Circle Facebook page.
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Created by the Baxter Creek Watershed Alliance.