Members of Maine Wabanaki tribes to walk to Wisconsin to promote clean water

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted April 28, 2011, at 3:03 p.m.

MACHIASPORT, Maine — Dozens of natives representing the five tribes of the Wabanaki Nation of Maine and Canada will gather at a sacred site in Machiasport next week to begin a monthlong walk to Wisconsin.

At Picture Rock, the site of ancient petroglyphs, the natives will dip a copper bucket into the salt water of Machias Bay and then will carry that water to raise awareness of the importance of clean water.

Tribes of the Wabanaki Nation are the Abenaki, Penobscot, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Micmac.

Members of each tribe will walk through Maine, Quebec, Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin, where they will be joined by thousands of other tribal members from the four corners of North America.

In all, the walkers are expected to journey more than 10,400,000 steps.

The effort has gained worldwide attention, according to Madeleine Hunter, the Eastern Walk coordinator, who is a member of the Wabanaki Nation in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. She said four European countries have now organized their own walks in support of the Mother Earth Water Walk.

“This is so important,” she said. “Whatever we do to the water will impact the children of future generations. People need to start looking at how we live and the importance of clean water.”

The Mother Earth Water Walk began in 2003, according to the project’s website, as “a prayer for the water, for Mother Earth, for the animals, the birds, the insects, the trees and for us, all two leggeds. Together the walks were one prayer for life.” This is the first year that water will be carried from the four corners of North America.

Donald Soctomah of the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Maine said the walk was conceived by an Ojibwe grandmother who walked around the Great Lakes in 2003 to raise awareness. He said each tribe will record a water song in their own language to sing along their journey. He said he expects hundreds of schoolchildren and others to join the walkers for short periods.

“Non-natives are very encouraged to walk with us,” he said. A van will accompany the group on their walk.

On the 2011 Water Walk, water will be gathered from the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and Hudson Bay and carried by hand to the shores of Lake Superior. The western and southern legs of the walk have already begun.

Walkers from the east will leave Machias on Saturday, May 7. Soctomah said a special tribal ceremony will be held at Picture Rock at Machiasport and walkers will progress from there down Route 1 to Bad Little Falls in Machias, where a public ceremony to kick off the eastern walk will be held. The walkers should reach the falls between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m.

Soctomah said anyone wishing to join the walkers may merge into the group at any point. The initial group will consist of dozens of natives from Maine, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and other areas.

Once the ceremony has been completed at Bad Little Falls, the group will walk to Milbridge, where walkers will rest for the night. The Hispanic community at Mano en Mano in Milbridge will welcome them, according to Kehben Grier of the Beehive Collective, which is helping to organize the Maine leg of the trip. The group’s arrival will coincide with Mano en Mano’s Mother’s Day Fiesta, Grier said.

The walkers will continue on May 8 to Bangor, and then will proceed over the next week on Route 2 through Skowhegan and on to Quebec.

Hunter said those along Routes 1 and 2 can assist the walkers by placing signs along the way asking trucks and other traffic to slow down and take care when near the walkers.

Grier said she is also seeking rest stops for the walkers along Routes 1 and 2. Anyone wishing to open their doors to the walkers or provide a place to rest may contact her at 669-4117 or kehbenbee@gmail.com.

All the walkers will converge June 12 in Bad River, Wisconsin. The water will then be united in Lake Superior, where the first Water Walk began.

“This journey offers us here in Maine a very rare and special opportunity to give loving and logistical support to an Aboriginally directed project that is ambitiously taking leadership on highlighting the multitude of issues facing our relationship with water,” Grier said.

In Machias, the Beehive Collective is opening its Grange Hall on Elm Street and home on Court Street beginning May 5 as staging areas for walkers who will be joining the trek.

More information, including a recording of a water song that tribal members will sing on their journeys, can be found at www.motherearthwaterwalk.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/04/28/news/members-of-maine-wabanaki-tribes-to-walk-to-wisconsin-to-promote-clean-water/ printed on July 26, 2014