Thanks to the Onaman Collective and support from many communities, over three hundred people gathered in July 2016 at the Garden River First Nation for the Great Lakes Gathering to address concerns about the wellbeing of the waters. As water carriers, singers, women, and allies, those of us involved in the making of the singing game Honour Water are grateful for the teachings shared and the following call to action. By sharing water songs in our language, Anishinaabemowin, we hope to contribute to the healing of the waters.
ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE GREAT LAKES GATHERING:
LIST OF ACTIONS AS DECIDED BY THE ELDERS’ COUNCIL OF THE GREAT LAKES GATHERING
Everywhere all over the world we are witnessing the utter destruction of our waters. Pipelines, nuclear waste, fracking, plastics, toxins, invasive species and chemical run off. With climate change and the political actions that support this continued destruction, this can seem like a mountain impossible to climb. Even political will cannot reverse this process because it is the social conscience of the people that needs to change. We are seeing this change within people everywhere. Everywhere people are waking up and taking actions and speaking out for the waters.
Over 300 people met in council over four days in Garden River First Nation from July 14-17, 2016 at the Great Lakes Gathering to deliberate and pray for the waters of the Great Lakes. We met in circles of Men, Women, Two-spirit people, and Youth, and presented our ideas to the Elders Council. The Elders met, deliberated, and this is the direction they provided to all of us.
The Elders Council said that above all else must continue to offer our Asemaa (tobacco) and keep everything in ceremony when taking actions for the waters. We must continue to coordinate water walks and host large ceremonies and gatherings for the water. They encouraged us to hold water ceremonies in accordance with the moon cycles and on sacred sites. They encouraged us to continue to fast and send our young people out to fast. They also understand and respect the direction given to our people through the Jiiskaan (shaking tent) and encouraged us to seek the direction from the spirits in all we do.
The Elders council stressed personal responsibility and action to protect Nibi (water) and Aki (earth). We must begin to live the way our ancestors did, on the land and spread across our vast traditional territories. We must bring our families, our children and the youth into the bush to build wiigwaams and teaching lodges. We must begin to harvest and plant our traditional seeds. We must go “off the grid” and begin to move into the forests. We must eliminate plastic in our lives. We can also individually and collectively boycott harmful corporations like Nestle, and raise our voices about government policies that harm us or Nibi (water) and Aki (earth).
The Elders Council also told us that our languages are integral to the health of the waters. We all must do what we can to learn our language and do everything we can to transmit the language and teachings to the children and youth in Anishinaabemowin (Indigenous Languages). The languages and wisdom in the language is what can protect the waters.
The Elders Council also encouraged us to share our actions with the world to demonstrate that we are doing the work for Nibi (water) and Aki (earth). We must share everything we are doing through all of our connections with each other. We must share what we are doing and use technology to our advantage on platforms that unite us such as social media. They stressed that they want the children in particular to be informed of the actions we are taking because they are the ones who are feeling the most hopeless. We must restore hope in the young people.
The Elders also specifically mentioned that they want to see the men visibly involved with and walking with the women by carrying the eagle staff for them and being there to support the actions that women are leading for the waters.
In addition, the Elders Council was presented with Asemaa (tobacco) to give blessings to the vision of Edward George, who paddled on Lake Huron to the Gathering. One by one we offered our Asemaa (tobacco) on the sand scroll that he drew out at the gathering. We confirmed our support and commitment to work towards the vision he received which will see the restoration of our clan governance system. We must begin to collectively work towards this as a common vision for the people.
We have officially entered into a new era where Climate Change and Water Crisis can be reversed when we work together. The time to act is right now. The Grandmas and Grandpas have spoken.