"We're all born of water, we're all connected with the water; we're all related in that way. Even though we're not related by blood, we're related by water. So water is very precious for us." - Josephine Mandamin, one of the orignial water walkers whose legacy lives on.
Lead by local grandmothers, the UCC student leadership group, Kidwin Zhingwaak (Voice of the Pines), held a school wide water walk on May 8. Community partners have been sharing traditional knowledge with the students all throughout the year and the students have been developing ways to share their learning by raising awareness through school-wide learning opportunities.
"The water walk not only brought the students together in a leadership role but also brought their peers, staff, and community partners together to demonstrate the collective responsibility to take care of and pray for the water," says Cortnee Goure, Indigenous Education Lead for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.
Water is associated with Mother Earth and it is the responsibility of grandmothers (nokomis) to lead, to pray for and to protect the water. Velma Noah, Lenape grandmother from Eelūnaapèewii Lahkèewiit Moravian at the Thames, shared her traditional knowledge with the students along with support from Celeste Noah, Eelūnaapèewii Lahkèewiit, Moravian at the Thames and members from the Akii Kwe women's water carriers from Bkejwanong Territory (Walpole Island First Nation).
The walk began with the women smudging the water. As they began carrying it in a copper vessel to the Thames River, they were followed by Cecil Isaac, Bkejwanong Territory (Walpole Island First Nation), Kidwin Zhingwaak, and an entire student body and staff walking behind to show support. As the school walked for the water, the Walpole Island Singers, Anthony Isaac, Cedric Isaac, Greg Isaac, and Leigh Ann Isaac, drummed and sang for the water. Additional community partners, Raymond Girard's communications class, and the Grade 7s and 8s from Bkejwanong Kinomaagewgamig Elementary School also came together to show support in preparing for the day and to participate in the walk.
"It was remarkable to see our leadership group come together with a core group that worked diligently to prepare for the water walk completing display banners, information videos, announcements and ultimately create an amazing experience for our entire school. It is still amazing to see an event like this take shape and the support of so many can make this opportunity possible," says Greg Malette, UCC teacher, Kidwin Zhingwaak member.
"It was an interesting and humbling experience, to see our young people, our students, our future leaders participate with such reverence and open hearts to a cultural message that reaches out to everyone everywhere," says Jeff Phaneuf, UCC teacher, Kidwin Zhingwaak member.
Cecil Isaac reflected about the experience and the commitment to learning and sharing the group is engaging in "with respect, honor, and commitment to learning, demonstrating a powerful time for the youth."
Kidwin Zhingwaak will continue to connect and learn from local First Nations community partners to increase their understanding, learn about what it means to be a leader, and to find ways share their learning across the school.