MSS Island-long water walk big success

Water walkers Maylen Moffat and Jocelyn Kuntsi pour their water containers out into the bay at M’Chigeeng in a ceremony following a grueling 63 kilometre walk across Manitoulin Island.

MANITOULIN – As the sweet scent of sage and sweetgrass drifted across the bay at M’Chigeeng, two young women gently poured waters collected from two sides of Manitoulin Island to mingle in the middle. An offering of tobacco laid down by Wiikwemkoong elder Patricia Manitowabi floated on the water’s surface nearby. The pouring of the waters was the culmination of a daylong odyssey conducted by two determined groups of Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) students, staff and well-wishers. 

“Today we basically walked across the Island in two groups, one from Misery Bay and the other from Wiikwemkoong and we met here in M’Chigeeng,” said WE Water Walk spokesperson Dana Thomson. “We were walking to raise awareness for people who don’t have access to water and to raise money to get them water.”

And raise money they did. Without even counting the online fundraising and pledge amounts, teacher Yana Bauer, who accompanied the students on the walk announced that the tally was already headed north of $1,200 during the closing feast. By the time the tallies from online and pledges were factored in on Monday, the bottom line had exceeded $2,000.

“I am extremely proud of the students and staff who organized and participated in the Walk for Water,” said Manitoulin RDSB Trustee Margaret Stringer. “The world needs people who care passionately about its future and are willing to take action to support their beliefs. It was an honour to share that experience with them and I am confident that they will continue to do great things as they move forward.”

The Saturday, May 11 Manitoulin Water Walk was heralded as a symbolic 12-hour walk by Manitoulin Secondary School students, staff and members of the community travelling an epic 60 kilometres to promote respect for water and care for earth.

The Manitoulin Water Walk was organized by Manitoulin Secondary School’s SHARE/Go Green Committee. SHARE stands for Students Helping All ‘Round Everywhere and the Water Walk is just the latest of many youth-led initiatives conducted by the committees. 

Chris Theijsmeijer, MSS teacher, Ethan Theijsmeijer, Journey Ruyter, Cindy Middleton, Mary Hore, Mike Zegil, MSS teacher, and Larissa Chevrette depart at the crack of dawn from Misery Bay Provincial Park, making the trek to M’Chigeeng and the waters of West Bay Saturday morning. photo by Tom Sasvari

“Students want to raise awareness about the importance of protecting water and they wanted to do this in a strong show of solidarity,” said MSS Principal Jamie Mohamed, bedecked in a bright yellow safety vest. “Participants have been gathering water from all over Manitoulin Island and to carry with them on their journey. They are also fundraising through pledges with proceeds going to support clean water projects around the world through WE.org.”  

Participants started the walk simultaneously at 6 am from Misery Bay and from Wiikwemkoong. The groups walked the 63 kilometres to converge at M’Chigeeng for a ceremony at the M’Chigeeng Marina before culminating in a feast at Manitoulin Secondary School at 6:30 pm. 

The walkers took part in a variety of capacities, including as part of a relay team or, for quite remarkable a number of hardy souls, as solo walkers for the whole route or for part of the route.

The final offering of flags and tobacco was attached to a tree behind Manitoulin Secondary School. photo by Yana Bauer

Each young woman taking part in the walk shared the honour of carrying the water over part of the journey.

“It was really amazing,” said MSS Grade 12 student Maylen Moffat of Manitowaning who took part in the walk from Gore Bay. Maylen said this was the first time she had participated in anything like the water walk, but that she found it a very spiritual experience.

Arriving at the beach in M’Chigeeng, the walkers took part in a ceremony that included a prayer by elder Carol Kitchikake and an offering of tobacco on the waters of the North Channel by elder Patricia Manitowabi. The final two water walkers, Jocelyn Kuntsi and Maylen then gently poured their containers of water into the bay.

Students and teachers from Manitoulin Secondary School pause on the road from Wiikwemkoong during the WE Water Walk. photo by Michael Erskine

Those who wished they had taken part in the walk can still help with this remarkable endeavour by donating to WE Walk for Water through cheques payable to Manitoulin Secondary—SHARE / Go Green or through the Crowdrise page at the following link www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/yana-bauer?utm_campaign=ocmultiteam&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=crowdrise.