The Ohio River Water Walk is the third Nibi walk

This Memorial Day, Honor the Water, Remember the Fallen, and Protect the Mounds

Mary Annette Pember

Officially, Memorial Day is a day on which war dead are honored. Unofficially, it’s a universal day of remembrance for all who have passed on. Many Americans will visit cemeteries over this holiday weekend in order to offer prayers, respect and honor to the graves of warriors and non-warriors alike.

Americans take great care in honoring their dead with fine monuments marking their lives and impact they have made on the world. To express anything other than respect for these sites would be considered downright un-American. The ancestors of Native peoples, however, are frequently not afforded this most basic level of humanity. Our dead often rest in mounds or sites that are marked with far more subtle methods than stone markers.

“There are cemeteries in Europe that are as old as our Native burial mounds here in the U.S. The only difference is that they have headstones with last names that can still be found in the immediate community,” said Kit Wesler, former director of the Wickliffe Mounds site in Kentucky.

The Ohio River Water Walk is the third Nibi walk lead by a group of Anishinabe grandmothers who pray for the water and raise awareness about the pollution that plagues this element that is essential to life. They began the walk in Pittsburgh on April 22, Earth Day, and are concluding their journey on Memorial Day near Wickliffe Mounds, a gesture that sends a poignant, potent message in both time and place.

RELATED: How Strong Ojibwe Women Made Mother's Day Special by Fighting for the Waters

Once a notorious example of racial disregard for Native burial sites, Wickliffe Mounds now stands as a tribute to what can be accomplished by tribal and mainstream collaboration in reclaiming the sacred.

The Nibi Walkers traveled 981 miles from the source to the mouth of the Ohio River, the most polluted river in America in efforts to reconnect people with the sacred element essential to life. Completing the journey at Wickliffe Mounds has an added bonus of underscoring the treasured graves of Native ancestors that have too often been disrespected and desecrated by mainstream America.


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