Minnesota Humanities Center

Walking the Red Lake River or Miskwaagamiiwi-zaaga’iganiiwi-ziibi

Posted April 30, 2019

This river flows out of Lower Red Lake on its western border. It makes its journey through marshy swampland, into prairie, and then farmland. The riverbanks become steeper, becoming large eroding cliffs and thickly forested.

I find myself excited thinking about this new Nibi Walk that begins on the Red Lake Reservation. I wonder – what will this river be like? Will it flow fast and smooth, or will there be rapids splashing over rocks? And who will walk with me? I hope there will be women from the Red Lake Nation and other indigenous women. I hope there will be some men to carry the eagle feather staff, and young ones to learn about the water. Every walk is an adventure, every walk is different and every walk is the same. We gather on that first day to orient ourselves to the walk, to understand: what does it mean to say, “ingah izitchigay nibi ohnje” – I will do it for the water? When we carry the water in silence, we hear the water swish gently in the pail, the copper beads clinking against the copper pail, we move silently down the road. We may see horses, red-winged blackbirds, robins all coming to greet us. On a water walk, there is magic in the air. We learn to trust each other, work together, and sing together as we move the water downstream.

At the end of the day, we sing Gibimosayaan Nibi Onje – we walked for the water. And then we begin the next day the same, singing the Nibi Song as we watch the first walkers walk at sunrise sending our love with them and with the water.


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Sharon Day Headshot
By: Sharon Day

Sharon Day, Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, is Executive Director and one of the founders of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force. She is second degree M’dewiwin and follows the spiritual path of the Anishinaabe people. Sharon is an artist, musician, and writer, in addition to leading Nibi Walks to save the life-giving force of water in locations around Turtle Island.