Women walk with sacred waterPublished 1:28pm Monday, September 3, 2012
Kim Cushway carried the copper bowl of sacred water as the fifth annual Pokagon Band women’s water walk reached Dowagiac at midday Friday.
The 14-mile procession with police protection made its way west from Wayne Township, en route with the liquid from the tribe’s pristine lake property on Gage Street, along Prairie Ronde, past Union High School, to a picnic lunch in the shade at the fire station.
A combine rumbling from Middle Crossing onto West Prairie Ronde came to a full stop and waited, as one would for a funeral.
Cushway, 41, of Dowagiac, has participated since the first water walk, when a handful of women completed the trek.
Organizer Andy Jackson counted 64 people at the blessing ceremony and breakfast preceding the walk through Pokagon Township to tribal headquarters at Rodgers Lake and the 27th annual Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow Sept. 1-2.
“As long as you’re a woman, you can carry the copper bowl — even the young ladies. We take turns,” said Cushway, who works for the Pokagon Band housing department.
An elder carries the container for the last leg.
“We do this because water is crucial. Everyone has to have it,” Cushway said. “We have a banner in front to let people know what we’re doing, and we usually pass out literature on water. People are very polite. They stop and wait until we walk by, like that farm equipment. Every year, it gets bigger as people realize how important water is. First, veterans honored us by leading us, now we’re getting some supportive men, too.”
The event, which included the women drawing into a circle at Gage Street, drew babies, children, teens, adults and grandparents., too.
“We gather in a circle and take natural tobacco to the water, say a prayer and place it in the water. They row out in a boat and ‘feed’ the water mashed-up strawberries, oats and natural foods, to make it healthy and strong. The water is collected from springs that bubble up, then we do a pipe ceremony and some prayers. When we cross any water — streams, rivers, lakes — we stop and say prayers and put tobacco in the water. We pray for all water everywhere on earth, not just Gage Street and Rodgers Lake,” Cushway said.
“Copper is sacred. It’s a sign of health. They say you can drink from a copper cup and pass it on to someone else who’s not healthy and you won’t get any diseases because it heals,” said Cushway, explaining the philosophy behind the copper rock inside Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo.