Ojibwe women embark on six-day trek to protect water

“Water walkers” carry Chippewa River headwaters 150 miles as part of ceremony



Story by Lauren French, Copy Editor

New Post, Wis. and Wabasha, Minn. are 150 miles apart, but a small group of people are trekking the distance on foot.

Led by Anishinaabe — an autonym for ‘Ojibwe’ — elder Sharon Day, the group will carry a copper bucket filled with headwaters from the Chippewa River to Beach Park in Wabasha.


The Chippewa River Water Walk, or Nibi Walk, is a ceremonial journey Ojibwe women traditionally oversee.

Patty Popple, an organizer of the Nibi Walk, said the sacred walk and ceremony serves to celebrate water and its role in the life cycle.

“It’s the tradition of the Ojibwe for the women to protect the water… everybody needs water,” Popple said.

Day and her companions, nicknamed the water walkers, will pray for the water as they stroll along the river.

The walk began Monday morning and lasts six days. The water walkers will make stops along the way to eat and rest overnight. The Nibi Walk will stop in Eau Claire to rest on Thursday around 4 p.m., and will depart for the next leg of the journey on Friday morning.

Anyone interested in joining the water walkers can find their location via GPS on nibiwalk.org.

The end of the six-day journey culminates in a sacred water ceremony, in which Day will empty the bucket of Chippewa River headwater into the Mississippi River.

In addition to the water ceremony on Saturday, there will be an Aldo Leopold Gathering in Wabasha to celebrate and promote water and land conservation.

John Hildebrand, UW-Eau Claire English professor and a presenter at the gathering’s conservation speaker program, said he encourages the community to be a part of the water walk and Aldo Leopold Gathering.

“Water is in a cycle…” Hildebrand said. “We have to be aware of what’s going on up-river and down-river. We live on a river, we’re a part of that system.”

The gathering will feature archery, fishing, music and educational panels, among other family-oriented events, Hildebrand said.

“There’s a serious side to this,” Hildebrand said, “but also it’s meant to be fun.”