Nibi Walkers travel along the Otter Tail River
By Barbie Porter
Stewards of the fresh water supply recently walked the length of the Otter Tail River.
From September 18-22, A Nibi Walk was held, and led by Native Americans. In Ojibwe, Nibi means water. Sharon Day, a walk leader, explained the walk began at the mouth of the Otter Tail River, by Elbow Lake, on Saturday, Sept. 18. A bucket scooped water from the source and Nibi Walkers carried that water to where the river joins the Red River near Breckenridge.
During the walk, ceremonies were held to pray for the water and to give thanks to the creator for the fresh water source, which gives all life.
“We walk for the water, and as well heal the water (from pollution) we heal all of life,” Day said. “We are not a protest; we are a prayer for the water.”
Day added that bringing awareness to care for and protect the water source is at the forefront of each walk.
“We try to get people to think about water as life, and what that means in terms of humanity,” Day said. “What would we do without water?”
Every day begins with a ceremony and concludes with one as well. Day said songs and prayers are often shared before the walkers head to their respective camps for the night. Some opt to sleep at campgrounds, others at hotels and some are gifted with the opportunity to stay with a resident near where the walk is concluding.
“We follow the river banks as close as possible,” Day said. “When there is private property, we take public roads and are reminded we have the river with us in the copper vessel.”
Day said they are met with curiosity, and for the most part appreciation. She recalled a county sheriff had pulled up beside them. After learning about the Nibi Walk the sheriff shared how he lived along the Otter Tail River, and thanked them for bringing awareness to the vital water source.
On average, the walk has about 10 participants per day.
The walk following the Otter Tail River was originally set to take place in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic the walk was put on pause. When restrictions lifted earlier this spring, the Nibi Walk for the Otter Tail River was scheduled.
All are invited to join in the walk, and those that do may be treated to stories from past walks. While the Otter Tail River walk has concluded, the next walk will cover the Haw River and Cape Fear River (both in North Carolina) from Oct. 26 through Nov. 4.