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I’m still on a high (natural, of course) following the Indigenous Women’s Symposium this past Spring at Trent U.  This year’s theme was Celebrating Our Relationships with Water. The stories, teachings and powerful women I encountered left me energized, inspired and so very grateful.

Some of the amazing highlights for me:

Anishinabe Elder Edna Manitowabi was just back from receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Sudbury when she graciously provided us with a teaching on “Creating Change Through the Use of Medicines”.  Participants in this session enjoyed plant samples, a slide show of medicines in the wild and the wise words of Edna Manitowabi explaining the various uses and preparation of plant medicines.

Welcoming Dr. Edna Manitowabi Photo Credit: Zainab Amadahy
Welcoming Dr. Edna Manitowabi Photo Credit: Zainab Amadahy

Maori Grandmother Sharon Heta shared her peoples’ teachings on wai (water) and stories of how she has worked to protect it over the years.  Sharon’s experience of being thrust into a position of leadership while not feeling prepared but nevertheless taking up the responsibilities was particularly meaningful to me.

Elder Stella Neff presented a moving story of the Grand Rapids area in “What Threatens our Water Sources in the North?”, which culminated in a call to action for all of us to protect the waters.  Stella described what has happened in her lifetime to the waterways of the Misipawistik community in Manitoba, impacted by a hydroelectric dam and then logging.  What I found most intriguing about this presentation was Stella’s explanation of how bodies of water (lakes, streams, rivers, etc.) know how to keep themselves clean.  When we humans interfere with these processes, such as through building dams, even if we’re not actively polluting, we destroy the health of that water, it’s capacity to clean itself and its ability to provide for our needs.

Keynote Speaker Sharon Heta & Shirley Williams Photo Credit: Zainab Amadahy
Keynote Speaker Sharon Heta & Shirley Williams Photo Credit: Zainab Amadahy

“She is Bringing the Baby out of Water” was a presentation by Anishinabe midwife Kerry Beebee who shared rich teachings around preparing for birth, supporting moms through pregnancy, labour and post partum as well as caring for infants.  Kerry shared lovely stories of the traditional ways in which pregnant and laboring women have been supported by family members.  Did you know there was a special song that is sung when the water breaks during labour?

 It was the height of fortune for me to meet with Diane Hill of Six Nations whose work intersects with mine.  She does Quantum Energy Integration workshops delivered in the context of an Indigenous worldview and linked with Indigenous Knowledge Systems.

In all, if you ever get an opportunity to participate in this annual women’s gathering you won’t be sorry.  Rather, you’ll come away enriched with stories, teachings and connections with wise women that are changing the world.

May we continually honour those who walk for the water.  All My Relations.

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About The Author

Zainab Amadahy

Zainab Amadahy is of mixed race background that includes African American, Cherokee, Seminole, Portuguese, Amish, Pacific Islander and other trace elements (if DNA testing is accurate). She is an author of screenplays, nonfiction and futurist fiction, the most notable being the adequately written yet somehow cult classic “Moons of Palmares”. Based in peri-apocalyptic Toronto, Zainab is the mother of 3 grown sons and a cat who allows her to sit on one section of the couch. For more on Zainab and free access to some of her writings check out her website.

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