Lake Winnebago Water Walk

An event preview by Larry P. Madden Arlie Doxtator

Water protectors gathered on the eastern shores of Lake Winnebago to begin a walk for the water spirit of Lake Winnebago. Starting in the town of Pipe on June 14th, the sun was honored as the day began. Walkers from as far away as the Twin Cities, Madison, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan smudged up and exchanged water protocols alongside the locals. The famed Grandmother Josephine, for those who don't know, has walked the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway several times in the protection of water and was the inspiration for this ceremony of water protection. The duties of carrying the water fall to the women, while duties pertaining to the Eagle Staff fall to the men.

These major highways near the shore present a constant danger in every passing semi and auto, so the walk was set up in a relay style, with the relay points resembling a track team passing the baton. The water must always move forward and the carrier never looks back or reverses direction with the carried water. At the morning protocols, water from rivers and lakes representing the four directions were combined together to be returned to the lake at the end of the walk.

This walk through much of the former New York Indians’ promised homelands was quite eye opening, as the beautiful vistas and Niagara Escarpment served as a backdrop for our experience. Most people don't realize the long-standing relationship between the Mohicans and the Dutch. Kaukauna, once known as Statesburg, was the product of the New York Indians. After lands had been cleared and grist mills, schools and farms established, the American government took the land back and moved the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans, the Brothertown and the St. Regis Mohawk to the east of Lake Winnebago. The Dutch who had favorable relations with the Mohicans since 1609 occupied the lands with confidence of a peaceful future. The Indian contingent moved east and after a fashion of land clearing, mill and farm building, the land was taken again. Plans to scatter the tribes to Minnesota, Kansas and Oklahoma territory were hatched, but once again the land was snatched back.

The term Indian-giver comes to mind. For some it means the Indians gave and wanted back, but truth be told the Euro-contingent took Indians’ land again and again. By 1830s the government not only took land, but bribed, threatened and stole tribal sovereignty. The only things remaining of land holdings are the names Calumet county, Brothertown, Stockbridge, Pipe, and Malone. That being said, it is these same stewards that gathered to express concern for the health of the water. As we all know, without clean water none of us can survive; we are carried in water in our Mother's womb and need it until we move on to the next realm. It's the breast milk of Mother Earth and yet we lack respect for it. In my lifetime I have seen rivers catch a fire and burn and lakes polluted until dead. Everyday water is treated as endless. Sprinklers left to run all day for vanity of green grass. Fertilizers allowed to runoff into aquifers and bodies of water. We as the two legged ones are responsible for this kind of behavior. This water protection is an effort to raise awareness to some of these concerns. Wisconsinites live in the freshest water in the world, but it's not endless.

I greatly admire, appreciate and respect these Water Protectors. If you get a chance to volunteer some time to walk or work behind the scenes on lunch, automobile driving or whatever needs doing, then do it. However you choose to help, it’s a good thing.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.