Missouri River water walkers near Coleharbor, N.D., are on their way to Standing Rock Indian Reservation and eventually, the Missouri’s confluence with the Mississippi River. (Sara Thomsen/Nibiwalk.org)
Published September 3, 2017
BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA – Native American women are walking along the Missouri River to raise awareness for honoring and protecting it.
Since their journey started in Montana a little more than three weeks ago, the women have walked more than 600 miles, joined by other Native Americans and members of the public.
River walker Lori Watso says Standing Rock is an important part of the walk. She says the protests there last year got her thinking about water as a finite resource.
“When people came together at Standing Rock, it was very important that that happened, and it kind of put a fire, if you will, under people,” she relates. “But the really important question is, ‘What are you going to do when you get home?’”
The women will be walking to the river’s confluence with the Mississippi River in Missouri. The walk is open to the public, and people who want to join can track the route at NIBIWalk.org, where there’s a geo-location tag at the top of the page.
In the past, the water walkers have followed the St. Louis River in Minnesota, the Ohio River and others.
Sharon Day, who heads the Indigenous People’s Task Force, says the walk is infused with positivity. While the women want to make sure the river is protected, Day says it also has a deeper spiritual meaning.
“The purpose of the walk is to pray for the water, to tell the water we respect the water, we are appreciative of the water and indeed, that we love the water,” she states.
The women say the river faces threats from the oil and gas industry, evident at Standing Rock where protestors opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline’s path underneath the Missouri and near tribal lands. They say the river also faces threats from chemical runoff from large farms.
Barb Baker-LaRush says she’s walking to protect the water for future generations.
“My husband and I have a large family,” she relates. “We have seven children and now, at this point, have 18 grandchildren.
“And I do this walk for them. I walk for my grandchildren, my children, and my great-great-grandchildren that are yet to come.”