March 21, 2023

Walking for water | News, Sports, Jobs

By AIDAN REILLY Daily Mining Gazette The fourth annual People of…

Walking for water | News, Sports, Jobs


Daily Mining Gazette

The fourth annual People of the Heart Water Walk took place this weekend, beginning Saturday at Keweenaw Bay’s Sand Point lighthouse and ending Monday at Copper Harbor’s lighthouse lookout at Astor Shipwreck park.

The group trekked nearly 90 miles, ending each leg with a meal.

“People of the Heart Water Walkers joins those of all colors, faiths and philosophies to work together for life’s most precious gift: Nibi (water),” said Kathleen Smith, organizer and member of Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

Water walks are conducted through Anishinaabe protocol. Walkers began with a ceremony Saturday at sunrise. Water was collected at the starting point and transported in a copper vessel to the final destination.

Once the walk begins, “the water is always flowing toward its destination, like the water that runs through the landscape,” said Terri Swartz of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC).

The water vessel is accompanied by an Eagle Staff, a protector of the water, and is typically carried by a male participant, though women also carry the Eagle Staff as needed.

Smith was happy to acknowledge her teenage twin sons, who helped to carry the Eagle Staff and provide support throughout the weekend.

“We are planting seeds with the youth to have love and compassion for the gifts of Mother Earth.” Smith said.

Along the route, prayers are said and songs are sung. Offerings in the form of tobacco are placed when crossing water bodies and for wildlife who have lost their lives.

Smith noted the support from community members, including the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community who donated a support vehicle, and Finlandia University who hosted the group Saturday night.

In addition, the Fourth Annual People of the Heart Water Walk was sponsored by the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Campaign of Upper Michigan, the Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region and the Copper Harbor Improvement Association.

Swartz was bristling with energy on Sunday afternoon as the group made its way from Houghton to Eagle River. She recounted her experiences organizing and participating in different events, such as a prayer gathering in Copper Harbor, a children’s water walk that took place in May and brought together approximately 200 participants.

These gatherings offer space to celebrate as well as express concern for the environment and generate awareness for the issues facing water quality.

Swartz reflected on her personal interactions with water as well and the wonder of being out in her kayak at sunrise or sunset on Lake Superior. She often snaps a photo to share online.

“We have some of the cleanest water in the world we need to protect it,” Swartz said.

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