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OPSEU mourns the passing of Grandmother Water Walker Josephine Mandamin

Water is Life

The Ontario Public Service Union (OPSEU) is mourning the passing of Indigenous Water Walker Josephine Biidaasige Mandamin who died last week.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says Ontario has lost a great teacher and role model who will be remembered for what she did to protect the water. 

“Josephine graciously allowed OPSEU to use her image on posters created for the Water Ceremony and Symposium hosted by the OPSEU Indigenous Mobilization Team on UN World Water Day March 22, 2017,” said Thomas. 

“I was privileged to attend this ceremony and remain inspired by Indigenous water protectors who protect us all from privatization and other threats to clean water. Our thoughts are with Josephine’s family and community as they prepare for her journey to the spirit world.”

Josephine Mandamin, originally from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, and affectionately called Grandmother Josephine, dedicated her life to protecting the water and giving it a voice. She made it her life’s mission to raise consciousness about the fragility of water and emphasize that water is life.

Crystal Sinclair, Region 5 Indigenous Circle representative, said Josephine taught and inspired her as a water protector.”

“Indigenous women and others will continue her legacy by remaining on the frontlines to protect the lifeblood of Mother Earth.”

Grandmother Josephine founded Mother Earth Water Walks – an initiative that brings awareness to the risks and threats to the health and sustainability of our waterways. Through that initiative, she has walked the shorelines of the five Great Lakes as well as in all four directions of Turtle Island – bringing water from all oceans together. She has walked the equivalent of half of the earth’s circumference while building awareness about pollution, laws, fracking, and the selling of water.

As part of her advocacy role, she conducted ceremonies where she would unite communities with water and empower them to start their own water walks to bring awareness to local lakes and watersheds. Grandmother Josephine has touched the lives of many and inspired a whole new generation of water walkers and warriors.

In her capacity as the Chief Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation Women’s Water Commission, she was a predominant contributor and leader of the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council, established under the Great Lakes Protection Act. She was also previously on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2006.

She was also honoured with a Anishinabek Nation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2016 for Excellence in Conservation for Water Walks, and received distinctions and honours from the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Sean Atleo, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Ontario Native Women’s Association and from the Mayor of Duluth Minnesota.

Biographical information on Josephine Mandamin from 

Crystal Sinclair, Region 5 Circle Rep with Grandmother Josephine Mandamin on her final Water Walk.