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Wisdom: Water walks and Indigenous traditions and culture

As part of St. Edward Catholic School Grade 8 classes' National Indigenous People's Day celebration, the class took part in an important spiritual activity known as a "water walk."

NIPIGON — As Canada celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, 2022, students at St. Edward Catholic School, took time to celebrate the Indigenous traditions and culture of their classmates. They participated in a special day of activities, including what is known as a “water walk”, a very important part of Indigenous spirituality.

The occasion was part of the school’s Grade 8 student's National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration, but also offered the opportunity to share in an activity that was both engaging and enlightening at the same time.

The students gathered in the school gymnasium to start a day filled with history and enhanced with the use of the Ojibwe language. It began with the singing of O Canada in Ojibwe, followed by one of their Grade 8 students leading the group in prayer, also in Ojibwe.

As the day’s activities continued, the class was led by Mrs. Borg and student drummers, who shared two songs with them. The gymnasium became a forum for sharing in Indigenous culture and tradition as student drummers formed a circle, inviting all of their non-Indigenous classmates to join in as they shared traditional songs.

After the drumming, the students gathered around to listen to the story, “We are Water Protectors”. Borg shared her knowledge as the class learned and celebrated together.

This gathering facilitated the learning of the importance of what in Indigenous culture, are known as, "water walks"; a special activity tied to Mother Nature, well-known to their fellow Ojibwe students.

As the Grade 8 class listened to the stories, and later the drumming, they gained a better appreciation for how, for these students, water is seen as a life sustaining gift from Mother Nature. It represented a traditional teaching passed down to them from their Elders, and family members.

According to the Assembly of First Nations, website, “Water is the most life sustaining gift on Mother Earth and is the interconnection among all living beings.  Water sustains us, flows between us, within us, and replenishes us.”

Water to Indigenous People, protects and sustains all living things, and living beings. It offers them strength and is an integral part of their spirituality.

Water, according to their traditional teachings, nourishes living things on the land and supports life in the rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Throughout the day, the students from St. Edward Catholic School, showed how important building community within their Grade 8 classroom was, and they demonstrated respect and friendship as they participated in the water walk.  

As they gathered outside to take part in the water walk, the Grade 8 students also took part in a smudging ceremony, which is also an important traditional and spiritual activity. 

Students from other grades were eventually able to take part in the smudging ceremony, that day.

The celebration of the “water walk” brought students together in a way that strengthened their appreciation for cultural differences and the importance of maintaining culture, tradition and language, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Superior North Catholic District School Board’s Indigenous Education Advisory Committee, “promotes awareness, knowledge and understanding of Indigenous culture, history, contributions and perspectives.”

The activities of that day, that each Grade 8 student in particular, who gathered with their school community to engage in traditional Indigenous activities such as the water walk, the drumming and smudging, served to strengthen their understanding and appreciation for the culture of their Ojibwe classmates.

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