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The Scarlet & Black

Sharon Day to discuss Ojibwe water walks


Sam Curry

Sharon Day, Two-Spirit Ojibwe woman and Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, will give a talk this Friday about environmental justice, activism and indigenous identity in ARH 302 at 7 p.m. Much of Day’s own environmental work has involved water walks — marches along important rivers and lakes to raise awareness about water pollution and other environmental issues. Day’s water walks come from the Ojibwe tribe, and, as a result, they often times take on a female-focused character.

“Among the Ojibwe people, our ceremonial work is divided between men and women, and women are responsible for the water,” Day said.

Water walks are monumental efforts spanning long miles and poor weather, but Day also feels that elements of her own day-to-day life and childhood have made her a more complete conservationist, and she hopes to pass some of these lessons along to Grinnell students and community members, as well as the world at large.

“When I was a kid we hauled [our own] water … When you have to carry your water, you know how to conserve, and you use your water more than once,” Day said.

Although water walks come from the Ojibwe tradition, Day realized that, as water crises and environmental problems in general become more common around the world, the project needed to make its way to a larger arena.

In 2003, an elder of her lodge organized a group of women to walk around Lake Superior, and eventually the group walked around all of the Great Lakes. Somehow, the water walks have become only more ambitious from there. In 2014, Day walked the Ohio River. While Day previously thought that this would be her final trek, the walk was such a success that she felt the need to do more.

“After the Ohio walk I had to give up the idea that I was done,” Day said.

Day’s talk will be concerned with returning the spiritual connection with water, lost in the commodification and environmental degradation in parts of the modern world.

“The biggest thing is that water is a living entity … when we walk and sing and pray, it’s the water we talk to,” Day said.

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