The Ohio River appears on many lists as one of the nation’s most polluted waterways. In an effort to heal the river, a group of indigenous women and others will walk the span of the river starting from Point State Park on Earth Day.
“We’re going to gather some water at the confluence there, of the Ohio River, and we’re going to carry that water all the way down to where it joins the Mississippi River,” said Sharon Day, walk leader and executive director of the Indigenous People’s Task Force. “And while we’re carrying it we’ll be praying and singing to the water.”
The “Nibi Walk” is 981 miles and is expected to take 35 days to complete. Nibi means water in Ojibwe. Day said in Ojibwe, and many other cultures, women are seen as the caretakers of water. It’s in that role that she and others will focus their energy on the Ohio River, though there are numerous scientists and environmental groups working to restore it and other waterways.
“And we support all of those, you know, we see ourselves as being sort of the spiritual element, to really speak to the water spirits,” said Day, “because without water, there can be no life.”
The initial group of walkers is small – it’s Day and a four others. Steeped in Ojibwe tradition, the walkers will pray and sing every day from sun-up to sun-down, but Day said people of any walk of life or faith are welcome to join the walk at any time and for any distance.
“On the Mississippi water walk we had literally hundreds of people who came for a day or two or five, or 10 days,” said Day. “If you can walk for 10 or 15 minutes, you’re welcome to join us.”
The walk will step off from Point State Park at 10 a.m. Tuesday.