Josephine Mandamin

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Josephine Mandamin
Josephine Henrietta Trudeau

(1942-02-21)February 21, 1942
DiedFebruary 22, 2019(2019-02-22) (aged 77)
ResidenceWikweminkong First Nation
Spouse(s)Andrew Mandamin
ChildrenTeresa, Brian Julian, Andrea, Andrew Jr. and Regina

Josephine Mandamin was an Anishinaabe grandmother, elder and water activist who founded the Mother Earth Water Walkers. On February 22, 2019, Josephine died at the age of 77.

Personal life[edit]

Josephine Henrietta Mandamin (nee Trudeau) was born February 21, 1942. Mandamin was from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.[1] She was married to Andrew Mandamin and mother to two five children, grandmother to thirteen children, and great grandmother to sixteen children.[2] In 2013 Mandamin graduated from Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig with a degree in Anishinaabemowin.[3] She passed away on February 22, 2019.[3]

Since 2003, Josephine has walked the shorelines of all the Great Lakes, around 17,000 miles.[4][5] Currently, Josephine's total kilometers walked for the water has been tallied at over 25,000 kilometers.[6] Josephine is a member of The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge and completed her last water walk in the summer of 2017.[7]

Steamboat Lake in Minnesota. Josephine Mandamin advocated for the protection of all bodies of water. photo by Daniel Devault
Steamboat Lake in Minnesota at Sunset 2019. Grandmother Mandamin fought for clean water for generations to come. Photo by the renown nature photographer Daniel Devault.

Autumn Peltier, Josephine Mandamin's niece, has been so inspired by her aunt's work that she has become an advocate for water and will continue on Grandmother Josephine's work.

The Water Walk Movement[edit]

The water walk movement began in 2003 after grandmother Josephine Mandamin became concerned over the pollution happening to the lakes and rivers across Turtle Island. Josephine was presented with a prophecy from an elder within the Three Fires Midewiwin society in the year 2000 that warned that "water will cost as much as gold" by the year 2030.[8] For the Anishinaabe, water is associated with Mother Earth and it is the responsibility of grandmothers to lead other women in praying for and protecting the water.[9] After the initial walk around Lake Superior in 2003, the spring became the annual time for the walks to begin as it symbolizes re-growth and renewal of the earth.[10] The work continues through a group called Nibi Emosaawdamajig (Those Who Walk for the Water), lead by Shirley Williams and her niece Elizabeth Osawamick.[11]

Mandamin was the Chief Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation Women's Water Walk Commission, a member of the Greak Lakes Guardian's Council, and walked over 25,000 km to raise awareness for the water.[12]

The Water Walker (book)[edit]

Lake Michigan Upper Peninsula. Lake Michigan, one of the first lakes that Grandmother Mandmin walked around. Photo by Daniel DeVault. 2019

A book called The Water Walker was written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson in 2017, it is available through Second Story Press. The book follows the story of Grandmother Josephine and her love for Nibi (water); it follows her walking journey with colourful illustrations and pronunciation guides for Anishinaabe words.[13]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2012 Mandamin received the Anishinabek Nation Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2016 she received the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation.[14] On January 26, 2018, Josephine was awarded the Governor General's Meritorious Service Decoration in recognition for her contributions to Indigenous leadership and reconciliation. [15] She also received honours from the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Ontario Native Women's Association.[16] In 2019, the Great Lakes Guardian Council honored Mandamin's water protection work.[12]


  1. ^ "Award-winning First Nations elder 'will go any lengths for the water'". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  2. ^ Home, Island Funeral. "Josephine (Trudeau) Mandamin Obituary - Island Funeral Home Limited". Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  3. ^ a b "Beloved water protector Josephine Mandamin dies". Two Row Times. 2019-02-27. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  4. ^ "Trekking the Great Lakes on foot to raise awareness about water pollutants". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  5. ^ "Grandmother water walker". The London Free Press. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  6. ^ Productions, Patrick Gilbert. "ONWA supports 'For the Earth and Water' water walk with Josephine Mandamin". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  7. ^ "Home". Home. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  8. ^ "Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, a 69 Year Old Who Walked Around the Great Lakes, Talks About the Water Docs International Festival - Shedoesthecity". Shedoesthecity. 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  9. ^ "Meet Josephine Mandamin (Anishinaabekwe), The "Water Walker" | Mother Earth Water Walk". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  10. ^ "About Us | Mother Earth Water Walk". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  11. ^ "'It's really very crucial right now': Great Lakes Water Walk focuses on protecting 'lifeblood'". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  12. ^ a b "Activist honoured at first meeting of Great Lakes Guardians' Council". Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  13. ^ "The Water Walker". Second Story Press. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  14. ^ "Josephine Mandamin to receive Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  15. ^ "Josephine Mandamin to receive Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  16. ^ Staff, Expositor (2019-02-22). "Anishinabek Nation mourns the loss of Grandmother Water Walker Josephine Mandamin". Manitoulin Expositor. Retrieved 2019-04-29.