The source of all life on Earth – water – is sacred to Canada’s First Nations Peoples. That special relationship is the inspiration behind this year’s first annual Great Lakes Water Walk on Sunday, Sept. 24 from 6:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Toronto’s Waterfront Trail.
Led by Indigenous Grandmothers, Knowledge Holders, and Elders, with collaboration and guidance from Nibi Emosaawdamajig and Ecologos, the Great Lakes Water Walk unites First Peoples and Canadians in a symbolic walk towards reconciliation through a shared reverence for life-sustaining water, and to ensure the health and well-being of the Great Lakes of Ontario for future generations.
Open to all, the walk will have two starting points: Bluffer’s Park (7 Brimley Road) in Scarborough, and JC Saddington Park (53 Lake Street) in Mississauga, with multiple stops along the way.
Throughout the walk, following Anishinaabe ceremonial protocols, Grandmothers and Elders, with collaboration and guidance from Nibi Emosaawdamajig, will make water offerings, sing water songs, and coordinate a collective agreement among participants to uphold the sacredness and purity of the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Water Walk will culminate at Marilyn Bell Park (851 Lakeshore Blvd. West, Toronto) at 3:30 p.m.
The final ceremony and blessing will be led by Anishinaabeg Grandmothers Shirley Williams, Josephine Mandamin, and Liz Osawamick.
They will be joined by First Nations leaders of the traditional territories where the Great Lakes Water Walk takes place, the Grandmothers’ advisory circle, leaders of cultural and faith groups, government agencies, as well as youth and community organizations.
“The mission of the Great Lakes Water Walk is to awaken the innate, sacred reverence for water that ripples deeply within us all, and harness the individual and collective energy and commitment among all participants to preserve and protect the Great Lakes,” says Kim Wheatley, the GLWW representative for Nibi Emosaawdamajig.
“This walk demonstrates a spirit of truth and reconciliation by sharing a path for First Peoples and Canadians to walk symbolically together towards a new relationship grounded in peace, friendship and mutual respect through the collective experience of ‘Walking for the Water’.”
“We are fortunate to have four of the five Great Lakes and many other beautiful lakes and waterways here in Ontario. They are a vital part of our ecosystem and way of life,” said Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport. “Increasing awareness and support for their long-term preservation, in addition to advancing reconciliation efforts with Indigenous communities, is an important endeavour to undertake. Our Government is pleased to support the Great Lakes Water Walk through the Ontario150 program.”
The Great Lakes Water Walk is a partnership project of Nibi-Emosaawdamajig, Ecologos, GREATNESS, Toronto and Region Conservation, and Faith & the Common Good.
The Walk is supported by the province of Ontario through the Ontario150 program and community partners including Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Toronto and Region Conservation for The Living City, LUSH, Toronto Foundation, Toronto Area Interfaith Council, Bata Shoe Museum, Halton Environmental Network, Water Docs Film Festival, Toronto United Church Council, Community Foundation of Mississauga, ASWCO (Aboriginal Sport & Wellness Council of Ontario), NA-Me-Res (Native Men’s Residence), Native Child & Family Services of Toronto, Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, PRISMA Light, and Trent University’s Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Environmental Studies Departments and Sacred Water Circle. The Walk is also a signature member program of “GREATNESS: The Great Lakes Project”, inspired by Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
For more information about the Great Lakes Water Walk, how to participate, become an ambassador or to volunteer visit: http://greatlakeswaterwalk.ca/event-details/.
Please preview the Great Lakes Water Walk video online.