Nibi Onje Biimaadiziwin: ‘Water is Life’

Recently, water has become a high profile resource with terms such as ‘water is life’ and ‘water protectors’ gaining a foot hold in the national dialogue. Despite this wider understanding of waters’ sacred, life-giving role in our lives, there are few places left where different nations can gather together to share traditions, teachings, and build unity around water. Since 2013 Aimée Craft has been involved with organizing an annual local water gathering, the Anishinaabe Nibi (Water) Gathering, that does just that: unite.

From May 24th to 27th Craft will once again help host the gathering in Whiteshell Provincial Park at Manito Api Site – Wiigwam Teaching Lodge, which was built by elders. The gathering is a hybrid of many activities including discussions and teachings, ceremony, and feasts, which all work to strengthen community. It is a place where elders, youth, community members, and the public are all invited to participate in building the space, speaking, cooking, laughing, sharing, and listening. The idea, according to Craft is to, “learn through doing. Discussion and action will be a theme this year.”

Each day of the gathering is unique and includes different themes. With teachings on language, song, decolonization, water law, and youth education, the water gathering is a unique place created by community. Past projects have included making smudge bowls, which were combined into the shape of a petroglyph, and other days have included discussions on hydro impacts, climate change, and community sharing.

The water gatherings have brought together communities from southern and northern Manitoba, New Zealand, Wisconsin and Michigan. This year, delegates from New Zealand will be attending. They have had an ongoing relationship with the annual gatherings and will offer their assistance, show solidarity, learn, teach and share with the many other gathering participants. This on-going provincial and international exchange has created strong relationships that unite participants in the protection and celebration of water regardless of distance or nation.

“It’s about gathering for good. As we have seen with Standing Rock, gatherings around water are so special and key in decolonizing,” explains Craft.

Note: There may be some funding for those interested in attending the Water Gathering. Please stay tuned for more details.


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