Gladyce Nahbenayash of Superior, Wisconsin, an enrolled Ojibwe member of Sault Ste. Marie Chippawa Tribe, of Michigan, was a guest speaker at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College’s Environmental Film Festival on 28 January 2010.
Happy Tonics, Inc. is the sponsor of the II Annual Winter Film Festival throughout Northern Wisconsin. The tribal college, LCO-UW-Extension, NNAHA Environmental Health Services, Sustainable Living Institute and Institute of Museums and library Services are cosponsors for the program that is running November 2009 – May 2010. The film Flow was shown. Please see this film. It will bring each of us closer to the global water issue on a profound level at http://www.flowthefilm.com/
Read about the Sault Ste. Marie’s Tribal Interpretive Center at http://www.saultstemarie.com/sault-tribe-of-chippewa-indians-interpretive-center-229/
Gladyce spoke about the sacredness of water. She told us the following: Water is the gift of life. Water is sacred. Water is alive and guided by spirits. Water is the transporter of other energies. Sing to the water to resonate vibrational healing. Give thanks to the water in ceremony. Water assists us in power. Give offerings to the water spirits. Give tobacco ties for water ceremony. Do a water ceremony around the New Moon. Water spirit is feminine. Water ceremony is fluid.
I first read of the Water Ceremony in Mazina’igan, a Chronicle of the Lake Superior Ojibwe. The article “Nibi Wabo” a Woman’s Water Song was published in the winter 2007/2008 issue, pg. 20. We are reprinting the article but not the sing. The originators want the ceremony to be shared with women around the world.
Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony
Please honor the following request: It is important to be aware that, while the originators of the Water Song want it to be shared, [they] ask that it not be shared through the internet. Mazina’igan hopes this request will be respected.
At the end of February 2002 in the time of the Bear Moon, a ceremony was held in the backwoods of Kitigan‑zibi reserve. Thirteen grandmothers participated in this ceremony, among them Algonquin and mixed blood women. Between the thirteen, the four races of women were represented. This ceremony had not been done in one hundred and fifty years.
This was the time before the hand drum had come to the woman, the time when we still played the sticks. The grandmother who brought this vision to completion underwent a spiritual process that lasted four years from the time the vision was presented to her until the time of the actual ceremony. She has chosen to remain anonymous, and the other twelve women present are the guardians of the ceremony that we have been asked to pass on to the women of the world.
The ceremony includes a song, a ceremonial staff and led to a series of related teachings that we have received since then. These are not yet ready to be shared. It is time for the women to assume their responsibilities. We are the keepers of the water because we are more in tune with the natural cycles. Traditionally, in most cultures, the women are considered the keepers of the water. We have the connection and the ways and the ceremonies to bless and purify our waters as well as the waters that make up 70% of our physical bodies.
We are living in the days of the great purification of the Earth. We have the choice to sit by helplessly watching the events take place or to be active participants in easing her passage. It can be as simple as singing a song at a river bank, putting our hands over a bowl of water for our children’s consumption, giving thanks and blessing the water that goes into our morning coffee, or picking up the garbage at the beach.
We would like to share this song with the women of the world. Teach it to your daughters, granddaughters, sisters, aunties, mothers, and grandmothers. Teach it to all the women you know. Go and sing at lakes and rivers, wells and oceans and at the kitchen sink. Mother Earth is bleeding. It is our turn now to help Her, who has given us so much through this crisis. Let’s not wait to be asked. Let’s not wait to be forced.
Let’s do it now, together. The ceremony is a simple one. Women in a circle playing birch bark clapper sticks, is what was shown. The sticks are about eight inches long and about two inches wide. That is all. In areas that have no birch trees, seek out the branches of the trees that are traditionally connected to women or the water and use these.
Of course, it is needed much and at any time of the year, but the grandmothers have asked that the water ceremony be done particularly at the thirteenth moon which is the moon at the end of February/March. They have also taught us that all women’s ceremonies are best done at the new moon. It was also asked that the notes are not changed. Period.
It has been asked also that only women can sing this song because of the connection between our menstrual blood and the blood of the Earth, which is the water. It is to be sung one time for each of the seven directions—east, south, west, north, above, below, and within. It can be played on a hand drum, but in its original form it was played on the white birch sticks…
In February 2003 the ceremony was held again for the second time, and this time there were two or three thousand women (that we know of) around the world who were singing over the water ways of Mother Earth at the same hour. A sacred fire was held in Maniwaki (Kitigan-zibi) Quèbec for these women.
The countries included the United States, Canada, Guatemala, Brazil, Columbia, Germany, Holland, Japan, Italy, Senegal, New Zealand, Jamaica, and Mexico to name only a few. It is the music that purifies the water. The words were given in Algonquin/Ojibwa to the women in this community to pass on.
It is always best to preserve sacred things in their original form. According to the original vision, the thirteen grandmothers stood on the ice in order to absorb the teachings from the water under their feet. It was asked to bring the ceremony in for four straight years in the land where it was received so as to set it in time once again. On March 10, 2005 the fourth ceremony was held. All was done as shown. Thirteen women sang on the ice and an Algonquin elder sat in the center of the circle holding the Grandmother Staff and a Bald Eagle that was donated for the ceremony. That night women on every continent of the Earth sang in unison. We were about nine thousand or more. The feathers of the Eagle were distributed to spiritual elders and healers around the world.
The next Nibi Wabo ceremony should have been held on the thirteenth new moon counting from the tenth of March 2005. It always falls between the middle of February and the middle of March. This is the moon that opens up the door when the ancient Grandmothers are most easily accessed. (This door can also be accessed by all women when they are on their moontime.) And at this time (the thirteenth moon), it has been asked to have the full ceremonials, whereever possible. This includes a sacred fire lit right before sunset which burns for thirteen hours during the night. We include the men as the firekeepers, but if no men are available, women firekeepers are chosen. The women go out after dark onto the ice to bless the water and return for a traditional feast that ends with a giveaway ceremony. It is an opportunity for the women to spend the night together so they can share knowledge and teachings with each other.
This thirteenth door is actually open for the four days from the time of the last sliver of moon until the first sliver of rising appears. Hopefully one day we will be able to spend this full four days together with the women. Remember that this is a water ceremony, a woman’s ceremony. It is fluid. There is no need for rigid ‘protocol.’ There are no set ‘rules’ as to how it should be done apart from the Grandmothers’ requests. Every woman will add her own touch, her own wave or ripple. The water song can be done at each new moon or even every day to bless our water. It can also be done on each other, over our food and our animals—anywhere water is present.
The old thirteen moon calendars are also returning. Many women (and men) are having visions. Other water ceremonies are coming back, and new technologies coming through as we realize that in a very short time there may be no more drinking water for the next generations unless we act NOW. The elders tell us that if we don’t act now we may not have any clean water left within ten years. They tell us that it may already be too late unless women everywhere make the water their first priority. Pass it on.
In the Algonquin way, the spring, when the first water starts to run, is the time that the women offer tobacco ties to the water in thanks. In the summer, it is the time for the Rain Dances and the ceremonies of renewal. In the late fall in the time when the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) come out in the north, water ceremonies are also done. And in the cold of winter, the Nibi Wabo ceremony to honor the Grandmothers is held. It is good. It is necessary now more than ever. The elders tell us that if things continue the way they are, we may not have any clean water left within 10 years. They tell us that it may already be too late. Unless women everywhere make the water their first priority. Now.
We will offer a women’s healing circle to promote the sacredness and sustainability of the natural world. Donna Alena Hrabcakova, Art Therapist, at Red Lake Reservation, Michigan at http://www.rlnn.com/newsarticlesnov03/aboutRL.html is a student at the Center for Sacred Studies. She is studying under the direction of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Alena will be coming to Northern Wisconsin, in the summer of 2010. She will give a talk about her work and studies and show the film: The Next Seven Generations. To acquaint yourself with the documentary, click on the following link at http://www.forthenext7generations.com/home.php
If you are interesting in attending a water ceremony, Alana’s talk and film, please contact email@example.com We haven’t set a date yet. We would love to put an Eco tourism package together to honor the water at Wisconsin Point beach on Lake Superior. The film and feast will take place in Shell Lake where the Monarch Butterfly Habitats and Happy Tonics are located.