Reflection from youth: Denise. Terry Fox? What about Grandmother Josephine?

Terry Fox. Everyone across Canada knows that name, the brave cancer survivor who tried to run across Canada to fund money for cancer research. While it was a great achievement, it pales in comparison to those of Grandmother Josephine Mandamin who walked 23,000 kilometers, more than 4 times as much as Terry’s 5,373 kilometers. Except I’m not sure you’ve heard much about Grandmother Josephine. Grandmother Josephine hails from Manitoulin Island, Ontario and since 2003 she created a movement of “Water Walks” to raise awareness for the pollution and misuse of our water. Starting her journey at the age of 61 and until she passed away in 2019, she was the founder of  the Mother Earth Water Walkers which fought for Indigenous waters to be protected. This week all around the world, there are Terry Fox runs being held to honour his legacy, and while there are still water walks held around Canada, Josephine isn’t taught about in schools, on billboards, or the subject of numerous songs. But, why not? From a certain perspective, it could be privilege, as some closed-minded people are more likely to show support for a white man than to an indigenous woman. As harsh as it may sound, it is a situation that has arisen several times in my life. Just the other day, I was told that it is mandatory to participate in the Terry Fox run at my school and we should each bring in five dollars to donate… Immediately I thought of how none of my teachers ever mentioned Grandma Josephine and how frankly, I would rather our school learn something new and be educated about Indigenous waters and pollution. Even though cancer is a terrible disease that affects many people most people are aware of Terry’s story and impact. But I’m not sure I could say the same about Grandmother Josephine. I wish I could though, because she deserves more recognition for her work that brought people together to protect Indigenous waters and educated many. But at the end of the day, it is unlikely she will ever have the same status and recognition as Terry Fox. Yet we should all strive to educate ourselves more on Grandmother Josephine and Indigenous activists, whether it be by sharing this blog with someone or a quick google search to learn about more about Josephine, we all could do more, including myself. I hope this has showed you a different perspective and even taught you something new. 🙂