Stamp honours ‘Grandmother Water Walker’

Anishinaabe Elder and renowned water-rights activist Josephine Mandamin will be forever commemorated with a stamp by Canada Post, unveiled June 18 in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Known as Grandmother Water Walker, Mandamin (1942-2019) has walked more than 25,000 kilometres to raise awareness about water pollution and environmental degradation in the Great Lakes and on First Nations reserves across the country. This stamp, featuring Mandamin, is part of a series of three Indigenous Leaders stamps released on June 21, the third installment in Canada Post’s multi-year Indigenous Leaders series.

Born in 1942 on the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Ont., Mandamin was a residential school survivor who attended St. Joseph’s School for Girls. In 1979, she and her husband moved to Thunder Bay, where she provided support to Indigenous youth and to women and children escaping domestic violence.

Family of Josephine Mandamin (CNW Group/Canada Post)

A fourth-degree member of the Three Fires Midewiwin Healing Society and its Grandmothers Council, Mandamin served as a spiritual adviser and healer, performing healing ceremonies and teaching others about Anishinaabe language and culture, and how to maintain a respectful relationship with Mother Earth. She also served many years as the Anishinabek Nation Chief Water Commissioner.

In 2002, Mandamin and a group of other Anishinaabeg founded the Mother Earth Water Walk movement to encourage people to protect water from pollution and other threats. Between 2003 and 2017, she led walks along the shores of waterways in Canada and the United States, singing, praying, and sharing the traditional ceremonies and knowledge of her people.

Since her passing in 2019, Mandamin’s legacy continues through community water walks and the efforts of the Anishinaabe women she mentored. Her many honours included the Meritorious Service Cross – Civil Division (2017) for her contributions to Indigenous leadership and reconciliation, and the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation (2015).

The stamp, cancelled in Wiikwemkoong, Ont., Mandamin’s birthplace, features a photo of Mandamin. A stylized illustration of water runs along the bottom of the stamp, with the cancellation mark depicting ripples emanating from a droplet of water. The dynamic rings reference Mandamin’s work to protect water, symbolizing how her legacy continues to inspire.

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