Women, water, and a long trail ahead

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(Photo: Mississippi River Walk 2013 on Facebook/Peter Johnson)

I wrote yesterday about Daniel Alvarez’s successful conclusion of his Northwest Angle to Key West kayak trek to call attention to the condition of our water resources.

Now, two Ojibwe women are beginning a similar trek with a twist: They’re walking. And they’ll carry a copper bucket filled with water from the headwaters of the Mississippi throughout the journey.

They’re 12 days into the journey of 1,200 miles.

“We’ll follow the Mississippi as closely as we can, and we’ll be walking,” Sharon Day tells Indian Country Today. She’s walking with her sister, Doreen, and several others.


Day is not unfamiliar with this river route. In 2011 she carried water from the Gulf of Mexico northward along the Mississippi to mingle with waters of the other four directions as part of the final Mother Earth Water Walk, a project started in 2003 by two Anishinaabe grandmothers to walk first around Lake Superior and eventually around all of the Great Lakes. That culminated in 2011 with walks starting from Hudson Bay, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico. Those walks, too, of which this year’s walk is an outgrowth, called attention to the needs of water, a living entity that must be cared for as it cares for us, organizers said.

This year again Day is carrying a copper bucket of water drawn from Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi, that she will pour out at its mouth some 1,200 miles south.

“This time we’ll take the water from the headwaters, where it is still clean and pure, and all along the way where it enters the Gulf,” she said. There they will mingle the cleaner water with the much-stressed waters at the mouth, bringing it a message, perhaps, of hope for its future and memories of its origins.

Day found in 2011 that carrying the water became one of her most sacred tasks. She had contemplated taking time out from the walk, letting others take portions of it, as she went back and forth to her work as executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force in Minneapolis.

The group started the day in Anoka today and will reach Minneapolis this afternoon.

(h/t: Christine Weighed, St. Paul)

  • Chris

    This could be a major issue here for many years to come considering the drive to open new mines on the edge of the boundary waters and on the south shore of Superior in Wisconsin.

  • Kate Kysar

    Thanks for reporting this story to a larger audience, MPR.