Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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Reflecting on the Great Lakes Water Walk

To bless the waters of our Lake Ontario watershed, the walk along the Toronto Waterfront Trail on September 24, was led by Anishinabek Nation Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, elder Shirley Williams and other women knowledge holders. Traditionally, women are the carriers of water.

It was the hottest day of the summer. Undaunted, about 1,000 people participated and solemnly walked either from the Credit River in the west or Scarborough Bluffs in the east to meet at Marilyn Bell Park near Jameson and King Street West. The event included a Water Walk braids ceremony that linked spirit and community together to teach about the sacredness of water. 
Sister Mary Mettler and I greeted the sunrise with approximately 100 people for the Water Blessing Ceremony at the Credit River in Mississauga led by the women elders. It was a very spiritual moment to be smudged (being purified with the smoke of sacred herbs) and to receive a gift of tobacco which we then returned in blessing to the water, ever conscious of being surrounded by nature and the beauty of the lake. Many more walkers joined us along the way to the final meeting point.
Sister Mary-Ellen Francoeur, SOS walked from the east. “It was a privilege to walk with the Indigenous peoples and to honour and give thanks for the tremendous gift of water,” she said. “It was indeed a pilgrimage where we grew in spirit of mutual caring. I was honoured to be invited to carry the copper water pot for some distance, and to be supported by all those around me. Prayer and rituals for water were the strength which carried us through the walk and the journey forward.”
Personally, it was very moving to see the walkers from east and west join together at Marilyn Bell Park for the closing blessing ritual. I joined the many interfaith leaders participating in the ceremony as a presence of unity. It symbolized the sacred act of encountering one another in humility for both Indigenous peoples and those of us of settler origins. We shared in our common responsibility to love and protect the sacred waters of Mother Earth. 
It was inspiring to be blessed by the witness of these Indigenous women who have given so much of themselves to protect the waters and to hear Grandmother Josephine speak so passionately for the care of water. We were all urged to do our part.
Grandmother Josephine (center) at the Great Lakes Water Walk.
To end the day, drumming and honour songs accompanied all the participants in a round dance. Feeling this heartbeat of creation, Sisters Janet Fraser and Mary Ellen shared a personal ritual offering their tobacco as a blessing to the lake knowing that water, the Source of Life, can bring us all together. 
The grace of the day was becoming more aware that being led by our Indigenous sisters and brothers truly is at the heart of Truth and Reconciliation. 
Sister Janet Speth


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