"The Lake Is Singing My Song"
|Acrylic prayer canvas by Nakawe Anishinaabe painter Simone McLeod from Pasqua Nation, Saskatchewan. Water is the life blood of the earth and everything that lives on, above, and underneath it. © 2016 Simone McLeod.|
The story is dedicated to the legacy of Nookomis (Grandmother) Josephine Mandamin, Ojibwe Anishinaabe catfish clan (February 21, 1942 - February 22, 2019)
== A Shared Ancestry ==
For six centuries or more, the Great Lakes basin, whose abundant waters, ebbing and flowing with the seasons, feed into the North American continent and the Atlantic Ocean, has been the home of our distant ancestors, who for generations have lived close to the water’s edge to survive.
Since the days when these Algonquian speaking immigrants first came to this region of bountiful freshwater lakes and islands and rivers and forests, its waters have nourished many generations of the People, physically as well as spiritually.
Along with water, all kinds of fish species, turtle spirits, snakes, muskrats, water birds, mermen and mermaids, underwater panthers, and a myriad of other water creatures, play a central role in the traditional narrations and creation stories for several Anishinaabe Nations that surround the Lakes.
From time immemorial, these proud Lake People with a shared ancestry go by the names of:
- Ojibweg (Ojibwe),
- Misizaagiwininiwag (Mississauga),
- Bodéwadmik (Potawatomi),
- Odaawaag (Odawa),
- Omàmiwininiwak (Algonquin),
- Odishkwaagamiig (N'biising, Nipissing), and
- Mamaceqtaw (Menominee).
== Nibi, Spirit of the Water ==
By way of a new blog series called "REFLECTIONS OF THE GREAT LAKES," accompanied by images of fine art and original works of jewelry, we aspire to capture, and pay homage to, the spirit and beauty and majesty of GICHIGAMIIN, the Great Seas of the Anishinaabe People. A natural resource of immense proportions once respected, revered and held sacred, yet nowadays unappreciated by many...
Over the course of a great many decennia the lakes' ecosystem has largely been misused and abused by commercial fishery and timber companies, as well as by power plants and various international chemical and oil companies and corporations - and of course the tourist industry.
It is our belief that, since there is no life without water, the waters of the Great Lakes should never be taken for granted, nor the water that fills the wells, the inland lakes and ponds, the rivers, and the oceans. Nibi is not merely an element but a soul (spirit) who gives us beauty, growth, generosity. Nibi gives us peace. The time has come for us to honor the debt we have toward Nibi and acknowledge her primacy from our hearts and our minds.
It's time we assume our responsibilities. It's time we learn to honor the waters again.
DOES A CANOE HAVE DREAMS?
I know this much:
A is made of birch bark.
== Origin and pronunciation of the word nibi ==
Nibi, which is Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language) for water, depending on the region, is pronounced, nih-BEH or ni-PIH. The first pronunciation can be heard among the Nakawe-Ojibweg (Saulteaux) of western Ontario while the latter is favored by Ojibweg in, for exampe, Minnesota.
A few years ago my friend Michel Sutherland from Fort Albany, Nishnawbe-aski related to me the following dibaajimowin (true life story) about the etymology of the word nibi. According to this Anishinini (Oji-Cree) story, the word nibi derives from the old form b'he; later on, throughout time, it evolved in "nibi": Niin, or ni= my; b'he = water. My water.
== Nibi Waaboo, the Water Song ==
An important part of the ancient water ceremony is called "MIDE WAABOO" (Literally; Medicine Water). In this ceremony, during which a song is sung called NIBI WAABOO or WATER SONG, a Midewikwe (a member of the medicinal, spiritual, scientifical, philosophical, and artistic society of the Anishinaabe Peoples, the MIDEWIWIN) holds the water up in a vessel made of the sacred copper, while the water song is sung by the Midewaanikweg (Sacred Water Line women) attending.
The spirit of water is addressed to in prayer and a small amount of nibi is shared with everyone attending the ceremony. The water is no longer just nibi – it is then perceived as MIDE-WAABOO: sacred medicine water.
After a period of one hundred and fifty years in which the NIBI WAABOO had gone underground - and perhaps not been performed at all -, a group of women from the Omàmiwininiwak or Algonquin First Nation in Quebec decided to revitalize the NIBI WAABOO. Among the participants of the ceremony, which took place in February 2002 in Kitigan‑zibi reserve, were Omàmiwinini (Algonquin) women and women of mixed blood, thirteen in total. These thirteen women represented all women of all four races of the world.
One of the women was a grandmother who in 1998 had received a vision of the ancient Nibi Waaboo. After having followed a four year-lasting spiritual journey in order to bring the rebirth of the ceremony to completion, she decided to remain anonymous. Since then the other twelve participants are the guardians of the ceremony, charged with passing on the ceremony to all the women of the world.
So sacred are the words that make up the nibi waaboo song, that - although it is deemed very important that the song is being shared throughout the world - they are supposed not to be shared through the Internet. Therefore we will not reveal the words of the song on our blog.*
Who knows, one day one of us, or both, might create our own interpretation of the image of the thirteen grandmothers standing on the ice as they receive the original water ceremony - be it in the form of a panting, a pencil drawing, or a piece of jewelry...
Any additions, corrections or suggestions for improvement of the above explanation of the water song ceremony are welcome.
* There exists a more recent version of the Water Song, related by Menasekwe (Beatrice Jackson) of the Ojibwe Migizi doodem. This song, called Nibi Nagamowin, was written by Waabanikwe (Doreen Day) of the Ojibwe Waabizheshi doodem at the request of her grandson. The song is sung like a lullaby and without using clapper sticks or shakers or hand drums. The words of the Nibi Nagamowin can be shared freely without any restrictions; click here to hear the song.
|Manidoo Nagamo (The Spirit Sings), gold and silver necklace handcrafted by the author. Click on image to view details.|
Our Grand Chief said it so eloquently when we gathered at Madeline Island; he said: ‘this is not the end but the beginning of the lighting of the 8th fire’. Are we ready to say we are truly Anishinaabe? Ahaw Mi'iw."
- The late Nookomis Josephine Mandamin
Source: Watertalkers blog
==Water Walkers and Water Line Women==
"The Nibi Water Walks are based in Ojibwe Anishinaabe Ceremonial Water Teachings. The reason Water Walkers walk is to honor the rivers and all water and to speak to the water spirits so that there will be healthy rivers, lakes and oceans for our ancestors in the generations to come.
– Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language) for “I will do it for the water.” Water Walkers say this phrase whenever they pass the water – both the person giving the water and the person receiving the water say it."
- Nibi Walks protocol
|A magic moment: An Anishinaabe jimaan (canoe) crossing the St. Mary's River from the US side to Whitefish Island on Canadian side.. Robinson Huron Treaty gathering, Waatebagaa-giizis (September) 2016. Courtesy of Sue Chiblow.|
"Water has to live, it can hear, it can sense what we’re saying, it can really, really, speak to us. Some songs come to us through the water. We have to understand that water is very precious…If we discontinue our negligence, we can change things around. That’s why I am really embodying the (Midewiwin) prophecy. You’ve heard of ‘Walk The Talk,’ this is why I walk."⁶
== The Anishinabek Women's Water Commission ==
== Fresh blood in the movement ==
Nookomis ogimaa nibi ogichidaa (grandmother chief water warrior and water commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation) Josephine Mandamin's work continues through, among others, a group called Nibi Emosaawdamajig (Those Who Walk for the Water), lead by Bird Clan Elder, teacher, and author Shirley Williams and Midekwe (female Midewiwin community leader) and water activist Elizabeth Osawamick.
In 2019, Autum Peltier, a 14-year old girl with gichi-nibi-gikendaasowin (great water knowledge) from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Ontario was elected successor of Josephine Mandamin after her crossing over to the spirit world.
|Click here to view order details of the book The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson|
- 2003 Lake Superior
- 2004 Lake Michigan
- 2005 Lake Huron
- 2006 Lake Ontario
- 2007 Lake Erie
- 2008 Lake Michigan
- 2009 St Lawrence River
- 2011 Four Directions Water Walk
- 2012 Lake Monona
- 2012 Lake Nipigon
- 2015 Lake Winnebago
- 2015 Sacred Walk
- 2016 Menominee River
- 2017 Toronto and the Toronto Waterfront Trail
- 2018 All Nations Grand River Water Walk
- 2019 All Nations Grand River Water Walk
Suggested reading and listening:
Nibi Water Walks website Mother Earth Water Walk website
Great Lakes Water Walk
Niibi Bimaadiziwn website by Beatrice Menasekwe Jackson
Meet Me by the Water Song
WATCH THE YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE WATER SONG!
OMFRC Newsletter ('Feathers in the Wind')
Ontario Indigenous Women's Water Commission website
Canoe illustration: From the book Ojibway Ceremonies by Basil Johnston. Digitally remastered by Frits Terpstra.
Painted banner (acrylic): Water Is Life by Simone McLeod (2016)
Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Ahki-ekwanīsit or "Earth Blanket"), is a Nakawe-Ojibwe-Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962. She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan) and is a member of Pasqua First Nation in Saskatchewan. Simone feels a special kinship with her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River "#16" First Nation) of Manitoba. She descends from a long line of Midewiwin seers and healers and artists. Her artwork has been appreciated by several art collectors and educational and health care institutions from Canada, as well as by art lovers from all over the world.
The MAZINAAJIMOWINAN or ‘pictorial spirit writings’ - which are rich with symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items, such as copper and slate, birch bark and animal hide - are Zhaawano's main design inspiration.