Op-Ed: Manitoulin Streams waterkeeper shares the important roles that water plays in life

Aiyana Louis (right)

The Sacred Gift of Water 

by Aiyana Louis

Manitoulin Streams Waterkeeper

Water is and always has been a creator of life. It is the flow of water from the mother that brings a child into this realm. It is the fall of the rain that replenishes the soil and creates a healthy foundation for grasses, trees, flowers, herbs, all plant and all animal life to flourish. It is water that sustains life and balance in this eco-system we reside in through ancient glaciers, and ancient waters below the earth’s surface that also sustains all life within rivers, lakes and streams. Water makes up most of our bodies, and it is water that makes up most of the planet we reside on, no living being on this planet can live without it. This is why water is sacred. 

In many societies today, water is not honoured in the same way it used to be. Because water is so easily accessible for a lot of us, as easy as a switch on the faucet, we forget the impeccable journey that the water has gone through to meet us here, at our request. Before settlers came to this land, the waters of Turtle Island, what we now call North and South America, were much cleaner and much more plentiful. Indigenous perspectives do not see water as a commodity, but rather as a sacred gift, the blood of Mother Earth that cleanses all that it touches. This is not only a belief for North and South American Indigenous people, but there is a collective understanding in the teachings of Indigenous people worldwide. In Indigenous groups around the world, we have a sacred relationship with water. As humans we all benefit from this sacred knowledge and knowing of water being life giver. 

As the bearer of all generations and future ancestors, Indigenous women have a particularly sacred connection with water. It is the women who hold the responsibility of nurturing, protecting and speaking on behalf of the water ensuring that all understand the interconnectedness that comes with understanding the phrase “Water is Life.” Water begins and sustains life, we give back to it through respect, kindness, care and honour when we sing it to and humbly provide offerings. That is why when an injustice or mistreatment of the water happens in our communities, in Canada, or on a global scale, it creates dissonance in the natural harmony of our spirit. It is important for not only Indigenous people, but people from all walks of life to remember the sacredness of water when we drink, bathe, wash the dishes, play at the beach, remembering that water is a gift from Creator. We give thanks for all that we are blessed with, and honour the gift of life past, present and future in a way that will be passed down to all generations to follow. When we do what we are called to do through understandings passed on through the lived experiences of our ancestors in a way they have shared throughout time, we honour the ancestors and all life.

Aiyana Louis hails from M’Chigeeng First Nation and is excited to be Manitoulin Streams’ inaugural waterkeeper. She is eager to learn about and share traditional Indigenous water keeping knowledge. Ms. Louis is enrolled at Carleton University in the Environmental Studies program with a minor in biology.