LITTLE CURRENT – A solemn procession gathered in the wooded circle beside the Northeast Town Welcome Centre to honour Manitoulin Streams’ waterwalker Aiyana Louis as she set out on her first water walk along the waterfront of the Port of Little Current this past Saturday, August 21.
The ceremony began with talks by elder/teacher Jean Debassige (Ms. Louis’ grandmother) and veteran waterwalker Kim Debassige (Ms. Louis’ aunt), who provided teachings on the water walk, the four directions and the important role that water plays in the cycle of life. Ms. Louis’ grandfather Justin Debassige was also in attendance.
Ms. Louis, of M’Chigeeng, was recently appointed as Manitoulin Streams waterwalker and has been working with Manitoulin Streams to restore and revitalize Island waterways and shorelines.
Prior to setting out, four bundles containing sacred medicines and foods were prepared and then placed in a single larger bundle that was borne in the procession by Yana Kuntsi. Jean Debassige carried the sacred bundle out into the waters at Low Island alongside Ms. Louis.
Kim Debassige provided drum songs as the procession of around 30 supporters joined Ms. Louis as she made her way on the journey along the Little Current waterfront, setting out from the docks below the welcome centre and ending in the waters at Low Island. Ms. Louis carried a copper beaker of water that she had collected from the waters of the North Channel and wore a tiny symbolic copper pot on her wrist.
Ms. Louis, Jean Debassige and Ms. Louis’s mother Catherine Debassige walked out into the waters at Low Island, where the spirit bundle and water were offered. Both Ms. Louis and Jean Debassige plunged into complete immersion after offering prayers to the four directions.
“It felt rejuvenating, like I was reborn,” said Ms. Louis after returning to shore. “Really nice, a cleansing energy, especially when I went under.”
Ms. Louis said that this was her first time leading a water walk. “I took part in one when I was eight,” she shared. “This was really a new experience.”
“We have been doing water sampling and work related activities over the summer,” said Manitoulin Streams program director Seija Deschenes. “I thought it was really interesting to hear the background behind the water walk.”
The water walk was revived as a ceremony by the late Josephine Mandamin, who circumnavigated all of the Great Lakes to bring attention to the plight of the water.