The importance of language, Anishinaabe law, and the water came together at this year’s Anishinaabe Nibi (Water) gathering. The theme for the gathering was Nibi Nagamonan – Water Songs. Each day began with a water ceremony and teachings at the teaching lodge, then proceeding to afternoon workshops in various formats. There was a lot to do and even more to learn!
The teaching lodge was host to speakers of various ages and backgrounds. Teachings covered the traditional value of water, the role of women as protectors of water, family roles and Indigenous birth-work. The crowd was very engaged throughout all the presentations as they listened and learnt from all the knowledge keepers.
The afternoon segments had a majority of hands-on work. Each activity was preceded with a teaching about history and traditions behind the actions that were to be undertaken. Participants got the chance to use their hands through making clay smudge bowls, tipi painting and making their own water monitoring devices. Elders and community members attended and discussed NWMO’s Deep geological repository project outside the teaching lodge. The star teachings incorporated teachings of creation and therefore the importance of artistry within Anishinaabe culture, each person from this water gathering and forward will be honoured and represented as a star painted on the tipi. The discussions of activities spilled into dinner discussions as participants could not wait to share what they had learnt.
Learning the water songs was as engaging physically as it was mentally. Each song came with its own lesson embedded into the language. Ancient knowledge held within the songs passed down and new knowledge whispered into beautiful new water songs was received humbly by all participants, young and old. Though initially shy, the voices of all grew more confident each day and with each song learnt, many even went down to sing to the water herself.
Much to the delight of all the elders present, there was a large representation of youth at the gathering. The youth represented many communities throughout Manitoba and Canada at large. During the youth gathering, they had the opportunity to learn their specific roles of safe-guarding the water within their communities. This was no doubt an opportunity to ensure the longevity of the knowledge that the elders had to share.
Laughter rippled through as people enjoyed the mere presence of each other. There was a strong sense of comradery throughout every task undertaken by all. We would like to thank all of the various organisers (especially Professor Aimée Craft) and sponsors for making this Water Gathering especially unique and enlightening. The lessons on the importance of language, Anishinaabe law, and the role of women as guardians of water will stay in our hearts for a very long time to come!