Fourth annual M’Chigeeng Water Walk set out from Otter Lake

With eagle staff in hand and to the beat of the hand drum, community members set out on M’Chigeeng’s fourth annual water walk. photo by Michael Erskine

M’CHIGEENG – A gentle mist rises from the dark waters of Otter Lake in M’Chigeeng as a group of water walkers gathers on the shore, performing ceremonies and singing songs as part of an annual water walk—the fourth year in a row the walk has taken place.

Kim Debassige is currently teaching at Queen’s University while studying for her master’s degree, but felt it was important to keep up the tradition she has followed for the past four years both as a water walker and as a rain dancer.

“I didn’t know I was going to be pulled into that,” she admitted of her role as a rain dancer, but it is a responsibility and commitment that she cannot walk away from.

The group conducted a sunrise ceremony at the lake and listened to stories. “Everyone shared their stories about the water and the land,” she said. “We brought our ancestors into that ceremony and thanked the grandmothers for prayers for our daughters and young missing and murdered. We heal ourselves in those moments and helps us walk in a good way.”

Ms. Debassige’s mother had earlier talked about the importance of not being judgmental during that healing as people try to find their own way out of their own suffering.

During the ceremonies, the women and men attending created two medicine bundles, one for each gender, that included small rocks, the grandmothers, as well as small portions of traditional foods including fish, corn and strawberries.

As part of the ceremonies, each attendee was smudged in turn and shared water and strawberries as they offered their semma (tobacco) to the fire.

The event was very emotional for many of those in attendance as they spoke of the pain and tragedy of young lives lost too soon, and how none of those who were left behind felt that they were better for the loss but continue to suffer the pain and confusion of those deaths.

Most of those in attendance have lost a loved one far too soon and spoke plainly and eloquently of their feelings as they passed an eagle feather from speaker to speaker.

With bundles prepared and water gathered in a copper decanter and led by an eagle staff, the water walkers set out for the shores of West Bay on the North Channel where light refreshments were available.

“Hopefully, some of us here this morning can find some comfort and healing through the sharing of our stories and prayers,” said Ms. Debassige.