Mississaugas of the New Credit – This past weekend, Anishinabe Kwe, Val King, held her second annual Honouring and Respecting Water Gathering at Lloyd S. King School on the New Credit Reserve.
After an opening address by Cam Staats, King welcomed everyone and explained how water is sacred and that it’s connected to the Earth. King, who is currently in a Masters program in Aboriginal Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University, also spends a lot of her free time raising awareness on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. King had bulletin boards of missing and murdered women at the Water Gathering on Saturday and explained that water and women are connected. “Water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth,” stated King. “When we take resources from Mother Earth without protecting her, it’s the same as violence against our (Indigenous) women.”
King spoke a bit about the situation that has been going on for years in the Grassy Narrows First Nation, which is a small community located 80 km north of Kenora, Ontario. Mercury in the water originated in the 1960s from a chemical and pulp mill in Dryden, Ontario, owned by Reed Paper Co., which got into the English-Wabigoon River System and eventually into the fish. For the people of Grassy Narrows and other First Nations who live along the Wabigoon River, the fish were the main food source and the commercial fishery and related tourism businesses were their main livelihood.
Five decades later, mercury levels in the fish continue to be above what is considered safe levels and people living downstream from Dryden continue to have symptoms of Minamata Disease including: sensory disturbances on the limbs, difficulty walking in a straight line, difficulty seeing, visual disturbances, hearing impairment, headaches, insomnia, exhaustion, fatigue and numbness in the limbs.
King also spoke about the sap from Maple trees, “We honor that first water (the sap). We are supposed to drink about a gallon of it. It cleans your body and it is a strong medicine,” stated King who also said that even though tapping trees by drilling a hole in them does harm the tree, it is important to remind people that, ‘we must fill that hole up after we are done tapping the tree. There are many ways to do this but I personally will fill the hole with sage and tobacco,’ said King. “And I know it works because when I go back to that same tree the next year, I can’t find the hole. So I know the sage and tobacco helps that tree to heal.”
King also spoke briefly about a Japanese study that was conducted in 1999 by Masaru Emoto who claimed that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water and that polluted water can be restored through prayer and positive visualization.
King also explained that as Indigenous people, we rely on water to help us heal in the grieving process. “Water is used for healing in grief,” said King. “When someone passes away, it is our duty to help that family out. We take care of them when they are grieving. We go into their homes and wash their walls with cedar water.”
The Water Gathering hosted a number of guest speakers including: Norma General who gave teachings on Maple Syrup; Organic Gardening teachings by Iowne Anderson; and local activist Danielle Be who does a lot of work in opposition to Line 9 and Enbridge. Be stated, “When we’re talking about land and water, resistance is so important especially as women. There’s a difference between rights and activism versus defenders (of the land) and responsibility,” stated Be who added that the strongest warriors are the ones who are connected to ceremony. She also stated, “We will be forever dependent on water. Money is very short term. What it basically comes down to is, do we want to protect Mother Earth or do we want money?”
King was very grateful to the 50 or so people who came out for the event and had this to say, “Miigwech for all that attended yesterday. It was an awesome day to focus on Mother Earth’s blood, the sacred waters. Miigwech for your prayers for Mother Earth. This was also National Water Day where other groups gathered to pray at approximately 3 p.m. Miigwech for the many messages from the presenters and participants. I hope each of you walked away with a renewed sense of responsibility to our mother and a commitment for changes that can be done for the Mother Earth.”