Charlene Winger Jones greeted her fellow Climate Reality Leaders in her native language of Anishinaabemowin at our Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Minneapolis, Minnesota earlier this year.
She then shared her story – one of the challenges Indigenous peoples face because of climate change. Charlene’s community is facing a water crisis, one that is making clean drinking water hard to come by and forcing many to abandon long-held traditions, like ice fishing.
Watch the video below (or read Charlene’s story in her own words) for a look at how one incredible woman is raising awareness about the preciousness of water – and how it is threatened in our warming world.
Aanii boozhoo. Niibi bemosyang Anishinaabekwe.
I’m a female water walker, and I walk from my home reserve Neyaashiinigmiing, which means “land surrounded by water.” I’ve walked for four years with other women, other men, carrying the eagle staff and copper pot. In total we’ve probably walked around 6,000 kilometers. So I’m really proud that I can do that; I’m still able to do that. And we’ve walked around the bruised trail, and it’s from Niagara Falls to Noojimowaaning, the healing place on my reserve. And it’s up and down, like really rough terrain, and last year I sprained my ankle because I got stuck in the rocks. But you know, just keep on going.
I wanted to create an awareness about the water. I felt our job was to let everybody know – not just our people but all people on this earth – [that] water is so precious. It’s the women who bear children who are all that water. And then when you see the earth here, when you see all the water on the earth. Carrying that water in that copper pot has awakened a spirit that is so strong within me, and I think any woman who wants to try and go out on her own any way you can and bless the water, just put your hand in it, because our water has a memory just like I have blood memory and you all have blood memory.
The first year, I carried it around our whole territory so that adds to 6,000 km, and then the next three years on the bruise trail, our backpacks were like 20 pounds and we carried a hammock, which we hung in trees so we wouldn't disturb the land so people wouldn't even know we were there.
We do this because we need a clean source of water. We’re on a boiled water advisory at my reserve, and they don't know for how long. And we’re surrounded by water, so I feel life now; I feel life as I swim in the water. I feel a connection. I feel a connection as I just walk around it. And I sing to the water every chance I get. I live on the lake so I should do that. And the power of the lake is absolutely amazing because of the changes I’ve seen on my shoreline within the past two weeks. That's how strong the waves are becoming. They’re moving everything around and we’re losing sand beaches. But they’re coming to me, you know, so that's a good thing.
Because of the temperature change, I can no longer skate on the bay. There’s no more ice fishing, so you know, that's what we all realize. Those changes that we all see within our own communities, our own territories. It's a loss just from that changing weather. It's a tradition I’ve lost, ice fishing. Because that's something we always did, and we always used a poll, that's how we set it up in the ice with some hooks and we would gather the fish that way and then we’d bring it back in.
So what I would like everybody to do in wherever they travel is realize the gifts that we have on this earth. Be grateful for all the gifts that we have. Pick up everything you see that shouldn't belong on the roadsides or in any parks even when you walk. It’s amazing what you see laying on the ground. So I’m doing this for the next seven generations, and when you consider what you’re doing in your Climate Reality, consider the next seven generations.
SHARE YOUR STORY
Charlene’s story illustrates the deep connection we have with our planet and the stress it is under because of the climate crisis.
If you’re ready to take action like Charlene and do your part to fight for the safe, sustainable future we all deserve, apply to join us for our next Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Las Vegas, Nevada this March.
Train with former Vice President Al Gore and leading scientists and communicators to learn how you can work toward climate solutions in your community and beyond.
Bring your courage, commitment, and passion. Leave with the knowledge and tools to shape public opinion, inspire action your community, and lead the global fight for solutions.
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