This week, Lakehead Public Schools was pleased to host Lakehead University’s Niijii Indigenous Mentorship program on site at Westmount Public School. The program brought the Water Walker Days to the school for Science Literacy Week in Canada. The purpose of the program is to encourage youth to protect and appreciate freshwater resources, especially the five Great Lakes. The famous children’s book “The Water Walker” by Joanne Robertson inspired the event and was used to help provide analogies and memorable lessons for the students.
Robertson’s book is based on the real-life story of Josephine Mandamin, the Anishinaabe Water Warrior and Water Walker, who led walks around all five of the Great Lakes to bring awareness to the importance of clean water and teach how to avoid pollution. The Niijii Indigenous Mentorship program and Westmount Public School organized this event of Indigenous and conventional water science with water protection activities for the students to continue Josephine Mandamin’s work. Each student was given a copy of the book “The Water Walker” by Joanne Robertson as well as a stainless steel water bottle to discourage the use of plastics. “Start drinking from refillable water bottles because the plastic is polluting Mother Earth,” said Sheila DeCorte, Elder Water Walker.
“We are grateful for our strong partnership with Lakehead University and we are pleased to host their Niijii Indigenous Mentorship Program at our school this week. The message behind the Water Walker Days event has not only been about the awareness of water pollution and the care for Canada’s fresh water resources, it has also been about individual empowerment and enabling the efforts of children with respect to improving today’s – and tomorrow’s – water resources. Students will take with them a sense of confidence and self-pride in knowing they have reach and connections, and are able to make a difference,” said Mark Moorhouse, Principal of Westmount Public School.
Josephine Mandamin was an internationally known water-rights activist. One of her most famous endeavors was her march around the Great Lakes from 2003 to 2017 to advocate against water pollution on the Great Lakes and on Indigenous reserves in Canada. For her activism, Mandamin was awarded the Anishinabek Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2015, and the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross in 2018. Josephine Mandamin passed away in 2019, leaving behind multitudes of inspired water walkers of all ages advancing her work.