Tag: JoAnne Cook

Moving Forward, Natives and Non-Natives Alike, Through Our Common Love of Water

Photo: “Grandma Josephine” and Jannan Cornstalk at a water ceremony hosted by Green Elk Rapids on May 20, 2018.

By JoAnne Cook

Today, October 12, is Indigenous People’s Day, a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates our histories and cultures.

I’ll participate in a virtual panel discussion tonight with several tribal members and elders called “Moving Forward Together: The Doctrine of Discovery and the Genocide of the Indigenous People,” as part of a local celebration of Indigenous people in Northern Michigan. You can tune in via Zoom at 7 pm

I’ll be talking about how we can move forward and do so together—Native and non-Native communities, alike. Our world view in some ways is different, but when it comes to Earth, our land, water, plants and animals, there’s a common goal in how we take care of and preserve what’s here. That’s one way of moving forward together—realizing our commonalities as human beings on this Earth. If we can have conversations about those commonalities and those things we all support and believe in, then we’ll gain an understanding and respect. 

Indigenous People’s Day is a way to bring awareness and share who we are, the Anishinaabek. We do not share the sentiment of what Columbus Day means. We are thriving native communities with our own governments, living and learning our way of life. We still hold onto our spiritual faith and belief, and are healing from the past. It is important to make that known, as there are some people today who don’t  know that we are here. 

Tonight’s agenda will include: an opening prayer and song from Grand Traverse Band tribal member and chairman of the Tribal Council David Arroyo; a land acknowledgement and thanks offered by Leelanau County Commissioner Ty Wessell; a video and stories of the culture and lives of Leelanau’s Anishinaabek people; and our panel discussion led by attorney and Title Track executive director, Holly Bird.

“We hope to bring points of understanding with the local people and the original people of this area,” Bird told The Leelanau Ticker. “I’m going to be talking a little about the point of contact that led to our genocide, and both the historical and the real modern-day context we are still dealing with on a regular basis. It is good to hear what that is and what that means. … With the panel, we will talk about how indigenous people and non-indigenous peoples DO come together … there are a lot of excellent teachers in that regard on the panel.”

One of our great teachers was “Grandma” Josephine Mandamin, who passed away in February 2019 at age 77. She was a grandmother, elder, and founding member of the water protectors movement. She was a survivor of the Canadian Indian residential school system and founder of the Mother Earth Water Walkers. She walked about 25,000 miles around the shorelines of all the Great Lakes, and other waterways of North America, carrying a bucket of water, to bring awareness to the need to protect the waters from pollution.

I knew Grandma Josephine for 25 years. When the question was asked, “What will you do for the water?,” she didn’t hesitate. She was ready to get the message out to everyone. She didn’t think about race or ethnicity. She took our teachings of the water and set out to do her work. She set out to educate, to pray, and to send a message of how important it is that everyone has clean water.”

JoAnne Cook is vice chair of FLOW’s Board of Directors and a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. She is from Peshawbestown, Michigan.

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Respecting Water

By JoAnne Cook

Indigenous Peoples’ Day (October 14 this year) has become a day of recognition to the Anishinaabek and has replaced Columbus Day in some communities. This recognition comes because we are the first people of this earth.

Although many believe Columbus discovered this land, there were many visitors to this land before him. After his arrival, life changed for the Anishinaabek. Even so, the first people were able to hold onto language, culture, and tradition. This is attributed to the seven generations before and to the resiliency and strength of the Anishinaabek.

Anishinaabek had thrived and lived our way of life for thousands of years. Many generations carried on this way of life and the stories that accompanied the teachings. One of those is respect. It comes in many forms and is expressed by everyone. You see it expressed through actions, words, and in our thoughts as we consider the choices we make in our life.

Respect is one of the most important teachings and must be understood in order to give and receive it. All cultures teach this, and Anishinaabek are no different. Our way of life taught us to respect all that is upon the earth: plants, animals, land, and the water. We do this to ensure that we have what we need and to think of the next seven generations.

Water is vital to our existence; it provides nourishment to human beings, plants, and animals. It is the lifeblood of Mother Earth. For those in the Great Lakes region, we are blessed to be able to live by the largest fresh water lakes in the world. How can we show our respect to the water knowing what we do? 

We know the Great Lakes have many uses, like recreational uses of swimming, fishing, and boating, and the economical uses that include shipping freighters and commercial fishing. So how is it that we come to understand the importance of water and respect that it’s a natural gift to all people? How do we respect water in its natural state? 

There are many people today who are standing up and speaking on behalf of water. It doesn’t matter where they come from or who they are, but what matters is they are reminding everyone to respect the water and to ensure she is here for many generations to come.

The Anishinaabek are grateful to the many people and organizations like FLOW who are providing education to the politicians, residents, community organizations, and businesses regarding water. It will take everyone to come together to discuss, learn, and share their knowledge about our Great Lakes. Each one of us has an important role in this effort.

JoAnne Cook is vice chair of FLOW’s Board of Directors and a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. She is from Peshawbestown, Michigan.

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 www.motherearthwaterwalk.com

JoAnne Cook Brings New Perspective to FLOW

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.