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Posted In: Hiking, James River

‘Nibi Walk’ Offers Spiritual Healing for James River

Andy Thompson

May 19, 2015 11:39am
Nibi Walk leader Sharon Day carries a copper pail full of water on a previous walk. Credit: Huffington Post

Nibi Walk leader Sharon Day carries a copper pail full of water on a previous walk. Credit: Huffington Post

On May 11, a group of Indigenous women began a 340-mile, 12-day “Nibi Water Walk” along the James River to honor the river and pray for its health. The James River Unity Walk, as it was dubbed, started near the headwaters of the James in Iron Gate. Yesterday the group arrived in Richmond, and this morning, after a ceremony at Great Shiplock Park, they’ll continue on their way toward the Chesapeake Bay.

Justin Doyle, community outreach coordinator for the James River Association, joined the group at Great Shiplock Park this morning and said they’ll head east on Route 5 on this hot, humid day before stopping in the Herring Creek area to camp tonight. The JRA helped the women plan the route for the Nibi Walk and aided with logistics.
Led by Ojibwe elder Sharon Day, Nibi Walks are based in Ojibwe Ceremonial Water Teachings. Nibi is the Ojibwe word for water. The walks are extended ceremonies in which women carry a copper vessel of water collected from the headwaters of the river as they walk, pray and sing daily, from sunrise to sunset, to heal and honor the river.
“We want the Walk to be a prayer,” said Day, before the trip began. “Every step we take we will be praying for and thinking of the water. The water has given us life and now we will support the water.”
Though steeped in Ojibwe rituals and beliefs, the James River Unity Walk is open to public participation. Anyone can sign up to walk through the James River Unity Walk page on Facebook or contact Diane Stephenson at 757-269-9554. Donations are also being accepted to provide meals and lodging for the Water Walkers.
Click here to contribute and to learn more about Nibi Walks, and here to read Rex Springston’s T-D article about the walk.

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?