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A message and a warning

Representatives from Spokane-area tribes gather around Sylvia Plain as she holds a glass jar of Spokane Aquifer water and talks about her three weeks of walking from the Washington coast. Plain is one of 13 walkers hoping to raise awareness about water. The walk will end in mid-June at the Great Lakes. (Christopher Anderson)
Representatives from Spokane-area tribes gather around Sylvia Plain as she holds a glass jar of Spokane Aquifer water and talks about her three weeks of walking from the Washington coast. Plain is one of 13 walkers hoping to raise awareness about water. The walk will end in mid-June at the Great Lakes. (Christopher Anderson)

American Indian women aim to raise awareness of shared threat

A group of American Indian women, inspired by an environmental prophesy, passed through Spokane on Earth Day on their 1,800-mile walk from the Pacific Ocean to Lake Superior.

They were welcomed on Canada Island in Riverfront Park on Friday by the representatives of several Inland Northwest tribes, the sound of Native drumming and the roar of the raging Spokane River.

The Anishinaabe women and their entourage are part of the Mother Earth Water Walk, a grass-roots movement to call attention to the environmental danger to our water, the blood of the North American continent they call Turtle Island.

“It is a message to all people to think consciously how they consume water and to raise awareness for future generations,” said Sylvia Plain, of Aamjiwnaange First Nation in Canada, who is among the group of about 14 Native walkers who set out April 10 from Aberdeen, Wash., on their way to the Midewin Lodge in Bad River, Wis., home to the Ojibwa Medicine Society.

There the walkers will be joined by other Native walkers coming from Machias, Maine; Churchill, Manitoba; and Gulfport, Miss.

In each group, the women carry copper pails bearing water from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Native men accompany them. The sacred water they carry will be united in Lake Superior, where the first Water Walk began.

The Gulf of Mexico walkers are led by Josephine Mandamin, a 66-year-old Ojibwa grandmother who founded the Water Walk in 2003 with a prophesy that in 30 years water would cost as much as gold.

Since then, Water Walkers have walked around each of the Great Lakes and followed the length of the St. Lawrence River. This year, Mandamin’s group set out walking from Gulfport on Wednesday, the anniversary of last year’s BP oil spill.

The Western group, which is attempting to walk 35 miles a day, included three generations of a Washington state family whose matriarch is Dixie Dorsey, 70. The youngest in the group is her 3-year-old grandson Anahuy Lopez. Dorsey plans to walk as far as the Flathead Reservation in Montana, birthplace of her father.

Greeting the walkers at the Riverfront Park totem pole were Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, and Spokane, Colville, Kalispel and Coeur d’Alene tribal members, among others.

“Water is what ties us all together,” said Yvonne Swan, of the Arrow Lakes Nation. “We may have differences of opinion, but we all depend on water.”John Osborn, chairman of the Spokane chapter of the Sierra Club, said the Spokane River – currently raging from spring runoff – has been damaged by mine wastes, PCBs, sewage and over-pumping.

“The survival of the river will depend on the love and care of the community,” Osborn said.



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