Mourning the passing of a "kind and gentle water protector"

Photo by Ayse Gursoz for Indigenous Rising

The Council of Canadians is saddened by the recent passing of Anishinabek Elder Josephine Mandamin.

The Anishinabek Nation acknowledged her as a “kind and gentle Water Protector.” “It is a very sad day,” said Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare. “We have lost a great advocate, teacher, and role model. She will be so deeply missed by all and will be fondly remembered for all of what she did to protect the water. Our prayers are with Josephine as she begins her journey home into the Spirit World and back to her ancestors. Our thoughts of comfort are with Josephine’s family and community as they prepare for her journey.”

Grandmother Josephine, as she was known, was the initiator of the “Mother Earth Walks,” and was firm in her commitment to the sacredness of water. She led Water Walks around the five Great Lakes, and even covered the length of the St. Lawrence River on foot. She believed that women, as life-givers, have a special responsibility to protect water as a sacred gift from the Creator, as the “lifeblood of Mother Earth.” The initiative was to bring awareness to the risks and threats to the health and sustainability of our waterways. She walked the equivalent of half of the Earth’s circumference while building awareness about pollution, laws, fracking, and the selling of water.

It was through the Water Walks that Maude Barlow, Honorary Chair of the Council of Canadians, got to know her. "I met Josephine many years ago when she started her amazing walk around the Great Lakes carrying her sacred water. I loved her at first sight as did all who knew her. I never heard an angry word from Josephine’s lips or saw a frown on her face. She was filled with love and hope and embodied the deepest spirit of reconciliation of anyone I have known. She will walk beside me as I carry on our fight for water justice here in Canada and around the world. Thank you Josephine for having given us the gift of your life.”

As part of her advocacy role, Grandmother Josephine conducted community ceremonies where she would unite communities with water and empower them to start their own water walks to bring awareness to local lakes and watersheds. She touched the lives of many and inspired a whole new generation of water walkers and warriors.

In her capacity as the Chief Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation Women’s Water Commission, she was a contributor and leader of the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council, established under the Great Lakes Protection Act. She was also previously on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2006.

She was honoured with a Anishinabek Nation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2016 for Excellence in Conservation for Water Walks, and received distinctions and honours from the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Sean Atleo, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Ontario Native Women’s Association and from the Mayor of Duluth Minnesota.

The Council of Canadians offers sincere condolences to Josephine Mandamin’s family and community.