Sixth annual water walk rests in Dowagiac

Published 2:12 pm Friday, August 30, 2013

The sixth annual women's water walk crosses North Front Street Friday on Prairie Ronde.

The sixth annual women’s water walk crosses North Front Street Friday on Prairie Ronde.

Melissa Foerster of Athens toted the copper kettle containing sacred water as the sixth annual Pokagon Band women’s water walk wended its way to Dowagiac at midday Friday.

The 14-mile procession with police protection and veterans with staffs traveled west from Wayne Township, enroute with 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.

“This is my first water walk,” Foerster said. “I’m from the Huron Potawatomi. We travel to find our traditions,” and though this was her first walk, she frequently attends the Pokagon Band’s 28-year-old Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow on Labor Day weekend.

Though it was 85, a breeze cooled 45 participants of all ages, men and women alike, who began their trek to Rodgers Lake at 10:15 after a blessing ceremony.

“It’s super nice,” Andy Jackson said. “I’m not worn out yet.”

“The women take turns” carrying the bowl, said Foerster, who moved to Michigan after 26 years in California and works for a job bank.

An elder carries the container for the last leg of the walk, which emphasizes the importance of healthy water everyone needs.

At Gage Street they gather in a circle and take natural tobacco, 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.

Water is collected from springs that bubble up, then they do a pipe ceremony and prayers.

When they cross any water — streams, rivers, lakes — they pause and pray and place tobacco in the water.

They pray for all water everywhere on earth, not just Gage Street and Rodgers Lake.

Copper is sacred and a sign of health. It is said you can drink from a copper cup and pass it to someone else who’s not healthy and you won’t get any diseases because it heals.

That’s why there’s a copper boulder inside Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo.