Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony

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. 

Driftwood view of Lake Superior

  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 

Lake Superior

Read about the Sault Ste. Marie’s Tribal Interpretive Center at 

nature 548
beach alter

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. 

nature 531
Grains near Lake Superior

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  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 

If you are interesting in attending a water ceremony, Alana’s talk and film, please contact  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. 



  1. Ori-Anne Pagel says:

    Hello Cathy Begay,
    I tried your email from RAM but it came back can you help
    The Nw Heritage Passage book is at the printers and we noticed we do not have a photo to put beside your listing.
    what we need is a good photo from you sent to me reply by email.
    We need it sent full size full quality … 300 dpi file min of 3 megabytes, sent as a jpeg and yes please label it with your name, name of your business
    then we will get it in the right place.
    Because it is already at the printers I need this asap.
    the book should be out in October … great for holiday gifts you can see the cover and order one
    Ori-Anne Pagel
    Book committee


  2. Dan says:

    I am looking for more information on the birch clappers used in the water ceremony. I would like to make some as gifts to women I know.


    1. Sorry I didn’t get to this before now. I learned about the clapping stocks from Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission, in an article that featured Ojibwe teachings by elder women. One makes the clappers from birch bark branches. They are cut about 8 inches long and about 2 inches wide. The clapping sticks are used by women for the purpose of prayer in Water Ceremony. There is a water song in Ojibwe also. This should be taught by an Ojibwe elder. This is how I received the sacred chant. Hope this helps.


  3. Remarkable! Its truly awesome piece of writing, I have got much clear idea regarding
    from this article.


    1. Thank you Lorie. I am so pleased that you enjoyed the article on Fay Club in Fitchburg, MA, USA. I see you also are working on creating sustainable communities in Europe.

      Flutter on,
      Mary Ellen


    2. Whoops! I see you wanted the Water Ceremony walking sticks instructions from Ojibwe Indigenous culture. Water is sacred as you know. You can make your own chants using simple walking sticks. Clapping stocks are small and light enough to carry outside when you are meditating and to bring good energy to sacred space. Always remembering to pray and bless the waater.

      A nice idea is to have a small container of water in the house where you can be conscious of drinking water and how necessary it is for all human life.


  4. Dear Water Sisters:
    The time is coming for us to begin to leave our caves and prepare for the Water Blessings in the Spring….remember that we are all dedicated to the traditions that our ancient ones are bringng forth to us…we are blessed….AHO…Grandmother Whitedeer


    1. Wonderful to hear from you during the winter solstice of quietness. It will be wonderful to hike up into the woods in early spring when the snows start to melt and the moving water gurgles its own prayer music. Here in a protected watershed area, I will bring my water drum and clapping sticks to honor, pray and bless the water.


  5. Jerrod says:

    I hardly create remarks, but after looking at some of
    the responses here Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony | Insectamonarca’s Blog.

    I do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay. Is it just me or does it look aas iff like some oof the comments appear like they are written by brain dead individuals?

    😛 And, if you are posting on other places, I’d like to follow you.
    Could you list of every one of your sociql networking pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed,
    or linkedin profile?


    1. Jerrod. It’s been awhile since I posted. I see that water is receiving a lot of attention. When we realize that water is being sold as a commodity and that the world is becoming more dried out like deserts, it is time to wake up and honor water as a life giving gift. I received a call from Grandmother Whitedeer, in CA, recently and she is reinstating the Sisterhood of Planetary Water Rites. I was on the council and expect I will be again. Thank you for your thoughts. Stay connected.


    2. Thank you. I write at I run an environmental education organization and public charity in MA and WI. We post there. Insectamonarca is written from heart and spirit.


  6. My brother suggested I might like this web site.
    He was totally right. This post truly made my
    day. You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this
    information! Thanks!


    1. I am delighted that your brother suggested my site at insectamonarca on Please visit as you wish and leave comments. We are always open to sustainability and teaching earth science to preserve sustainability into the future.


  7. You actually expressed it well.


    1. Thank you. Enjoy the reading.


  8. Frank Kern says:

    Frank Kern teaches you how to use each of these and weave
    them together to build a truly ADDICTIVE character. Yet, John Delavera insists that list-building is not the secret
    to a successful Internet business. One of the catchiest tunes from Kern’s 1927 musical Show Boat is Life Upon the Wicked Stage.


    1. I’ll have to look you up Frank Kern. Thanks for the comment and read on Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony


  9. This paragraph will assist the internet viewers for setting up new website or even a weblog from
    start to end.


    1. I am happy you found a paragraph helpful from the Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony.
      Mary Ellen
      Butterfly Woman


  10. Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice whilst you amend your site,
    how could i subscribe for a blog site? The account aided me a acceptable deal.

    I have been tiny bit familiar of this your broadcast offered vibrant transparent idea


    1. Sorry I am so late in getting back to you. You can have your own Blog on I think you would love it. I write from my spirit here at Insectamonarca. My Indian name is MemengwaaIkway butterfly woman, although I don’t consider myself native. My Ojibwe elder friend told me, “You are native you have your Indian name.” On August 25, I will be migrating on to Saratoga Springs, NY, which is my hometown.

      Here’s hoping we meet again along the digital highway.


  11. I was recommended this web site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about
    my trouble. You’re wonderful! Thanks!


    1. I am happy that the Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony resonated with you. I am the author and attended the Water Ceremony at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College, Hayward, WI. It was part of a cultural events and films that our nonprofit Happy Tonics is involved in at the college. Please know whatever your trouble was, you are pure spirit and can reach your deepest level of spirit at your heart’s center. The grandmothers can connect with you as well as kindred women can. I have a candle lit for your intentions.
      Namaste, Butterfly Woman, Mary Ellen


  12. brigett says:

    Thank you so much for posting information about the Nibi Wabo Water Ceremony and Mazina’igan. I came across your website for the first time yesterday. I enjoyed reading your blog and am looking forward to reading Mazina’igan as well.


  13. When someone writes an paragraph he/she retains
    the thought of a user in his/her brain that how a user can know it.
    So that’s why this paragraph is outstdanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is something in every writer’s life. It is known as the Muse. It is funny how thoughts will occupy the mind for a set period of fleeting moments and it is imperative to get the words down while in this consciousness. Otherwise, it is lost forever. Thanks for sharing.


    2. Thank you. Sorry I have been long in gettingt back to read your comment.


  14. Υou could certainly see your enthusiasm ѡithin the work you write.
    The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you wɦo aren’t afraid tο mention how they believe.

    At аll times follow your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. In gratitude, Mary Ellen


    2. Thank you thrermo extreme max. Your words give confirmation.


  15. Miigwetch (thank you) for sharing your words on sacred water and ceremonies. May the water be honored by your good work. Memengwaa Butterfly Woman


  16. So many thanks for sharing this. I come back to it every year. Hope it’s ok to share!


    1. I am so pleased it brings comfort. Blessings.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s