Indigenous Women: Nations, Cultures, Voices

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Mother Earth Water Walk & July Gathering

b2ap3_thumbnail_sunset-over-clouds-on-lake-superior.jpgSunset Over Lake Superior in Michigan: Traditional Lands of the Anishinaabeg

In 2003, several Anishinaabeg women from different clans came together to address water pollution in their traditional lands. What they decided to do that year, and something similar every year since, is to walk the perimeter of the Great Lakes. Along with other Anishinaabeg people and supporters of all races and identities, they annually raise awareness about the sanctity of water to all life on Mother Earth and draw attention to the pollution in and around the bodies of water.

b2ap3_thumbnail_10325303_10152484967038436_7304127123619074266_n.jpgFrom the "World Fast for Mother Earth" Facebook page, "Grandmother Josephine Mandamin (pictured at right) has walked more than 17,000 km around all five Great Lakes and beyond. As she continues her healing work, she invites all nations — wherever you are in the world, alone or with others — to join her each year on a fast for Mother Earth."

Walking around the Great Lakes is no easy task! The women camp out nightly and face challenges from the weather and their own ability levels, but the importance of protecting the water urges them onward. Since 2003, they have never missed a year Walking for Water.

On March 20, 2015, the Women's Water Walk Activists shut down the Nestle Company's water bottling plant in Sacramento, California. The Activists "said the company is draining up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers during a record drought."

This past April 2016, the Annual Women's Water Walk took place along the Menominee River in Wisconsin. The mouth of the Menominee River is the birthplace of the Menominee People and is one of their most sacred sites. The people held an ancient ceremony there in April. Unfortunately, this place is currently threatened by a mining project. You can read more about the Menominee Walk, and the Mother Earth Water Walk history, by going to


Great Lakes Gathering July 14--17, 2016--You are Invited!

In just a few weeks, an exciting event will be happening at Ojibway Park in Garden River First Nation, Ontario, Canada on the shores of Lake Huron. The Anishinaabeg have offered an Open Invitation on their Facebook page (Great Lakes Gathering 2016) to Indigenous peoples and supporters (non-Native peoples) in order to celebrate traditional Eastern Woodlands culture and discuss the issues of ending water pollution. They write on their Facebook page that during the Gathering "we will nourish a sacred fire, make water offerings, convene an Elders Council, host traditional healing, and a ceremonial Lacrosse game! This event will be filled with traditional activities that will include storytelling and Anishinaabemowin [language] immersion."

For the many non-Native Americans who are so interested in witnessing true Indigenous culture and are weary of the Indian stereotyping we get in mainstream media, this is an exceptional opportunity! The Anishinaabeg have generously provided an open invitation to anyone who can attend. What a great summer road trip!

The best practice at a traditional gathering is to be politely quiet, only go into spaces where you are invited, and wait for information to be shared with you--don't ask. Cultural information/meanings will be shared with you if they want you to know. I understand that asking questions is the American way to learn, but unless it is a Question & Answer session, do not ask questions. Just Listen.

Along with the Ojibway Gathering in July, Summer Pow-Wow season is in full swing across the United States, and non-Native American peoples should feel welcome to attend them. Knowing the protocols can help us all avoid awkward moments and help build positive, friendly relationships across all our communities.

To preserve Mother Earth, we all must work together.


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Dr. Mays is a professional writer with a doctoral degree in Native American Studies who has taught at the college level for nearly two decades. She is committed to educating about Indigenous cultures, especially about practices that specifically relate to women, in order to raise awareness about current issues in Indian Country, dissolve stereotypes, and create healing among all communities.


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