Grandma Josephine the Water Walker: A Remembrance

Above: FLOW Board member JoAnne Cook (left) with the late Josephine Mandamin (right).

In late February, Josephine Mandamin of the Anishinabek Nation, affectionately known as Grandma Josephine and Grandmother Water Walker, passed away at 77. Grandma Josephine was famed for leading a Great Lakes water walk to dramatize the importance of guarding this essence of life, logging more than 25,000 kilometers for water advocacy. FLOW board member JoAnne Cook offers this remembrance of Grandma Josephine.

Grandma Josephine Mandamin was the epitome of strength, love, and devotion. Devoted to her work as a water walker and protector, devoted to her family as a mother, wife, and grandmother, and devoted to the way she lived her life as an Anishinaabe kwe (a female member of the Anishinabek Nation).

Her work with the water began when our Grand Chief of the 3 Fires Lodge, Edward Benton, said that one day water will cost more than an ounce of gold and then he asked: what will you do to help the water? Grandma Josephine took that to heart and followed his message. 

She began the water walks as a way to bring awareness to the people about the water. The water walks began in 2003 and included the Five Great Lakes, the Four Directions, and the Migration route from east to west. The water walks brought together all people and included men and women from all parts of life.

To take part in the water walks and gatherings, a person only needed to care about the water and have the willingness to learn from Grandma Josephine. She truly exemplified the notion that one person can make a difference and create change. Her message about water and the need for clean, healthy water reached many people and communities all over the world. 

To learn more about the water walks and efforts of Grandma Josephine, go to

3 comments on “Grandma Josephine the Water Walker: A Remembrance

  1. Brian Upton on

    Miigwetch for sharing that remembrance JoAnne. I remember reading about Josephine when she did the water walk. She was/is a powerful example of leadership and advocacy.

  2. Siobhan Marks on

    Miigwech for sharing the story of how Grandma began her water walks, which have become a worldwide phenomenon. Grandma Josephine and Bawdwaywidun / Edward Benton, Sr. exemplify “the power of one” through their personal commitment and by teaching us that the strength that we all carry becomes so much stronger when we come together to do our work… especially for our precious Nibi. Spirit-driven and forever flowing… howah! Great article!


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