From July 15 to 19, Grandmothers representing the Giigewigamig First Nation Health Authority communities of Bloodvein, Hollow Water, Black River and Sagkeeng walked to honour and raise awareness about how the four elements – the air, water, earth and fire – are integral to a good and healthy life.
They were joined by young people from the four communities and other supporters, and arrived at the Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng on Thursday July 19, in time for the Zuguswediwin (Lifting the Sacred Pipe) National Elders Gathering, where Elders and Knowledge Keepers from across the country will come together, following traditional Indigenous protocols, on issues of nationhood and climate change.
The Zoongatiziwin Pimatiziwin Aki Walk was named by Black River Elder Ernest McPherson as a way to return to our Original Ways in seeking balance, health and wellness. Zoongatiwin Pimatiziwin Aki means ‘a strong, good way of living on the land’ in the Anishinabe language.
The walk began Sunday morning in Bloodvein with a Pipe Ceremony, followed by the Grandmothers drawing water from Lake Winnipeg in a copper vessel. Water offerings were made to acknowledge and pray for the streams and creeks along the way. Sagkeeng Grandmother Aldeen Starr Mason said, “Sometimes we forget to honour the spirit of our gifts from Creator, so we will walk in prayer.” The walkers were hosted in the four Nation communities, who offered feasts in their honour, along the way. Their last stop at the water was at the mouth of Lake Winnipeg in Sagkeeng, on Thursday morning.
A sweat lodge was held in Bloodvein First Nation in the evening of Saturday July 14, to offer prayers for a safe and successful walk.
The walkers were greeted and honoured with a feast and giveaway at the Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng by Elders, community members and the public attending the Zuguswediwin Gathering on July 19 at 12 noon.