A group of Indigenous ceremonial ‘Water Walkers’ have been on a long journey, and recently passed through Rimbey, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin.
The group, the Saskatchewan River Water Walkers, made their trek down Highway 53 on July 21, and will walk a total of 1,900 kilometres before they are finished.
They “move for the water, for life and for the children.”
As the group walks across Canada, they will be conducting an Indigenous Water Ceremony. Water is being carried from Saskatchewan crossing, through Ponoka, Maskwacis, Edmonton, Lloydminster, North Battleford, Prince Alberta and up in the Paw and where we will finally end in the grand Grand Rapids.
The group encourages Canadians to walk alongside them in their spiritual journey.
“We hope people will begin to think of the water as living,” said Tasha Beeds, lead organizer of Living Water: Saskatchewan River Water Walk.
“The call to action is to raise consciousness about the water. We want people to think of the water as living. There is a sense of urgency,” said Beeds.
“One thing my later Biidaasige-Ba or Josephine-Ba Mandamin (the ba is a marker of one who is deceased). We have the opportunity to turn things around. If we discontinue our negligence we can change things around. If we don’t, the future generations are going to carry the consequences of everything we are doing now. And that time is happening now.
“Water Walks must commit to as per the protocols of the Ceremony,” she said.
“I’m not an environmentalist. I’m a grandmother, I’m a kokum (grandma in Plains Cree), this is my responsibility. So, it is very different when you think of the water as living as opposed to a resource.”
Beeds is of nêhiyaw, Scottish-Metis, and Bajan ancestry. She was mentored under the late Josephine-Ba Mandamin and is the lead water walker for this ceremony.
The group also consists of matriarch Water Walkers, grandmothers, and includes a Two Spirit grandmother.
Beeds and her group will be walking in her maternal ancestral territories for the water she grew up alongside.
The group says they are walking for the next seven generations over a four year period. This year is the first year they will be conducting the Indigenous Water Ceremony across Canada with the intention to raise awareness and consciousness on important of water. It’s a vital part of the earth.
“We are here walking for the water. We are here carrying the water across the country.”
Beeds says the group is following the flow of the North Saskatchewan River.
“And we do so to raise the consciousness about the need to think about the water. To hear about what the water is saying,” said Beeds.
Beeds says they welcome people from different communities to come and join them in their journey.
One day, seven guests came out to help from their Midewiwin Lodge (medicine lodge). They belong to a Midewiwin Lodge and those were their lodge brothers and sisters who came out to support that day.
She said that they did 47 kms on that day. However, there are just four of them. They are a lot slower.
“The more people we have. The faster the water will flow. We want people to come out to make that connection to the water,” said Beeds.
“For nêhiyawak (Indigenous people), this is our ancestral territory. I am plains Cree and I’m mixed black and Indigenous woman but I was raised with my Plains Cree family. So, as we walk across the territory we are exercising our sovereign right as grandmothers, as women and as two spirit people. We have the right to be in the ceremony and we are a visual reminder of our ceremonies and our ways here. We still remember our ways,” said Beeds.
“When we walked through the sacred mountains. We saw people all over them, crawling all over them, and these mountains are our grandmothers and grandfathers. This is still our ancestral territory. As guests … non-Indigenous people are guests to land. They haven’t been very good guests,” said Beeds.
Beeds says that part of this journey is to raise consciousness and breakthrough apathy towards the environment.
Shes say that the group is trying to get Canadians to think about water. The fires, the droughts and lack of water means there will be food shortages.
Beed explains that young people need to get involved in the Water Walk and Canadians need to think seven generations ahead.
“And right now, the glaciers are melting and there is no snow on the mountains. There is no water running from the mountains. What happens at the head waters is going to find its way here. All along the route of the north Saskatchewan river. That’s what we are here to tell people,” said Beeds.
Tisean Redcalf, a Grade 8 student from Ponoka and the kidney ambassador for Alberta Kidney foundation joined on Wednesday as the group walked from the town of Rimbey to Ponoka. She carried the children’s water staff.
“I came out to walk for the water rights in Canada. Clean water is important and we need to respect it. So, many First Nation communities don’t have access to clean drinking water,” said Redcalf.
“I have been wanting to walk for the Saskwatchwan River for a long time. Ever since the oil spill in Prince Albert where I live, close by there, we have been doing water ceremonies to clean that water, along the river. I felt that while river was sick.,” said Majorie Beaucage, a grandmother Two Spirit Water Walker.
The Water Walk pilgrimage will take place over a four-year period. The public is welcome to join in at any time.
The group is also looking for donations such as gift cards for food and gas. They also have a GoFundMe page.