People of the Strong Wood / Men of the Thick Woods
Sharon M. Day is enrolled in the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, and makes her home in Minnesota, where she is a founder and executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, a vital provider of culturally appropriate health services, programs and housing. She is a grandmother, great-grandmother, and an artist, musician, and writer.
Sharon’s spiritual life is to care for water. In her Anishinaabe ways, women have taken care of the water since time immemorial and believe it is the blood of Mother Earth. In 2003, Sharon joined the late Anishinaabe elder Josephine Mandamin to begin Mother Earth Water Walks to raise awareness about water issues.
Today, Sharon continues to carry forward this modern ceremonial tradition with Nibi, or Water Walks. Every Sunday, Sharon leads groups of women water walkers around lakes and rivers in ceremony. The walks are an acknowledgment of water as a life giver. They’re focused on and implemented in faith: faith in the water spirits, faith in the earth, faith in humankind and faith in the power of love.
Because women also give life, they are the keepers of the water. They unite with others in an expression of love and hope for a better future for their grandchildren. The water walkers carry the water from the headwaters to the mouth of the river or lake to pray for the water, often covering hundreds of miles.
“Every step is a prayer to the water spirits,” says Sharon.
She has led more than a dozen walks along the Missouri River, Mississippi River, Ohio River, Seneca Lake, and many others.
Sharon has received numerous awards, including the Resourceful Woman Award and The National Native American AIDS Prevention Resource Center’s Red Ribbon Award. She has been named among the 100 Best Loved Women by Yes! Magazine. The state of Minnesota and both of the Twin Cities have recognized Sharon’s contributions by declaring November 10 in her honor.
Sharon’s loving message to the water might also be a healing prayer for all people: “This is how you started off, this is how we wish for you to be again. Remember that at one time you were pure and clean at the source.”
Please join me in celebrating Legacy Leader, Sharon Day.
When we poured that water into the gulf, a wave came up and it touched our ankles, and then another came up and touched our shins. Not a person moved in that line, and then another wave, that fourth wave came to our knees and it was like being kissed by the river…
Sharon Day reflects on growing up on the Bois Forte Reservation in Minnesota, being in recovery, getting her spirit name, and eventually becoming part of the Midewiwin, the Grand Medicine Society. An activist, writer, community organizer, and a “water woman,” Sharon has been an agent for change and healing. She talks about walking the length of rivers with healing prayers and songs and empowering young people to explore justice issues through theater. In recognition of her life’s work, the Governor of the State of Minnesota, and the mayors of both St. Paul and Minneapolis named November 10, 1998 Sharon M. Day, day.