Annishinaabe elder completes two week Grand River water walk

From Dundalk to Lake Erie to Luther Marsh, Mary Ann Caibaiosi was one of eight walkers who took part in the All Nations Grand River Water Walk and ceremony.

From Dundalk to Luther Marsh, Mary Ann Caibaiosi completed the All Nations Grand River Water Walk

Mary Anne Caibaiosai (front row centre) said the walk is a ceremony. She was inspired to launch the All Nations Grand River Water Walk between Dundalk to Lake Erie and back, after taking part in a similar walk in 2017. (Water Walkers Facebook page)

A group of eight individuals, including Annishinaabe elder Mary Ann Caibaiosi, have completed the All Nations Grand River Water Walk ceremony, a two week endeavour that took them from the start of the Grand River at Dundalk to the Dunnville area of Lake Erie and back north to Luther Marsh where the walk ended.

The walk started from Sept. 15 and ended on Sept. 25. Caibaiosi and seven others walked for approximately 280 kilometres. 

Along the way, they were joined by other walkers from Fergus and Kitchener, who spent a day with them.

Some challenges along the way

Caibaiosi said they faced some challenges, but for the most part, the walk was inspirational. 

Along the route especially in the urban areas, the group was forced to walk on the side of the road at Highway 24 near Cambridge during the morning rush hour.

"The speed was felt as we walked along the shoulder of the road. It really filled us with a lot of angst." Caibaiosi said.

"A lot of stress around trying to manoeuvre our way around certain parts of the city. Trying to find the safest route. One day was particularly challenging because it was raining," she said. 

'That day was amazing'

Caibaiosi said the day they arrived at Lake Erie with the pail of water they gathered from Dundalk was a special one. 

"We carried the water from Dundalk to Lake Erie and we poured that water into Lake Erie. That day was amazing," she said. 

"It was was the end of a big storm up north and we felt the wind and the sun. It was a glorious moment at that point. And then we walked back toward Luther Marsh where we finished the walk."

Caibaiosi said the walk is a ceremony: the walkers would rise daily, take part in smudging and prepare themselves mentally before picking up the pail of water to start the day's journey.

Caibaiosi ​was inspired to launch the All Nations Grand River Water Walk after taking part in a similar walk in 2017.

She dedicated this walk to Josephine Mandemin, who she describes as the original water walker, along with her deceased sister. 

Walking dreams

Caibaiosi says she's inspired to continue walking during her own leisure time, after returning to her Kitchener home on Sept. 29.  She is also planning for future walks as she has committed four years to walk in the name of the sacredness of water.

"We're still dreaming about walking," she said. 

"That's what I am hearing from all the walkers...and that's a good thing."

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of the story did not make clear the walk began near Dundalk, Ont. and onward to Lake Erie, then back again to Luther Marsh.
    Oct 11, 2018 9:34 AM ET