In May, Tribal law expert and educator JoAnne Cook joined FLOW’s Board of Directors.
JoAnne, who lives in Northport, is a former Council member, Vice Chair and Acting Chair of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. She also served as Chief Judge of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. She is well known in northwest Michigan for classes on tribal history and culture taught to non-tribal audiences.
What is your personal connection to water?
I grew up in Northern Michigan surrounded by water and have enjoyed the benefits of having the Great Lakes in our backyard. As an Anishinaabe kwe, I also have a spiritual connection to water as we understand water is a living being that provides life to all things. Our teachings describe and provide how we work with the water.
What motivated you to serve on FLOW’s board?
I am in awe of the knowledge and effort of those involved with FLOW. The public education regarding the Great Lakes is such an important piece as well as the effort being made to educate those involved in the decision making process such as Line 5 or the withdrawal of water from the natural springs. This philosophy fits well with the work of the Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes.
You have done a great job teaching the history of the Odawa Anishinabek people from the Grand Traverse Region to non-tribal communities. What observations do you have about the level of awareness in those communities and their readiness to learn?
Most people that attend come in a level of awareness but it comes from a textbook or historical record and not from the native perspective. Each class learns something about our culture or way of life, which opens a new level of understanding. My goal is to share our true history and in a way that allows them to understand who we truly are and that our way of life was structured and adept.
What do you see as the major water challenges of our region, and on a broader scale?
One major water challenge is Line 5 and the safety of the water in the Straits. We all know the catastrophic result to all aspects of the water including the plants, animals, humans, and the economic impact to the state.
On a broader scale, water is not a commodity, it is a right. We all need water to live, to eat, and to sustain life as we know it. The question is, how do we come together to have clean water for all?
Do you see reasons for hope that we will successfully address these challenges and if so, how?
Yes, there is hope. There are many people around the world who are sharing ideas, concepts, and coming together through symposiums, Facebook, etc. to discuss and share ideas about clean water and providing water to all. We have seen demonstrations, proposed legislation, and rallies regarding positive change toward water. If there is continued dialogue and the sharing of information, there is hope for change.