Sing the Water Song
History of the Water Song
During the 2002 Circle of All Nations Gathering at Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Ottawa, Canada, Elder William Commanda requested Irene Wawatie Jerome, an Anishinabe/Cree (Algonquian) and a Keepers of the Wampum Belt member, to write a song that women could learn and spread throughout the world.
Algonquin Healer Louise Wawatie then taught the Water Song to Elder Nancy Andry so a mission to spread this powerful song could begin. Nancy Andry met with the elders again in Canada, and they unanimously agreed that our Earth's waters are facing grave dangers and approved that a video of the song should be made. The Wawatie and Commanda families gave permission to record the song on the following video.
The Song's Video
The Water Song Lyrics (Phonetical)
Nee bee wah bow
En die en
Aah key mis kquee
Nee bee wah bow
Hey ya hey ya hey ya hey
Hey ya hey ya hey ya ho
Beautiful water flow
You are the key to life
Beautiful water flow
About the Anishinabe and Cree Tribes
The name "Anishinabe" means "first people." The tribe resides around the Great Lakes area, including Michigan (known as Chippewa), Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana, and Manitoba to Ontario (known as Ojibway). Their language is Algonquian. These people are very skilled in a number of trades, namely hunting, fishing, herbal medicines, and the gathering of wild rice
The Cree, an Algonquian people, once vital to the fur trade, reside throughout Canada. They are hunters, traders, artists, and scouts of the sub-Arctic regions. Today these people's names are most commonly referred to by their places, e.g., Plains Cree. The places, in addition to Plains, are Swampy, Western Wood, Eastern Wood, and James Bay.
The term "Algonquian peoples" refers to all the Algonquian-speaking natives in North America. The Algonquin tribe is a small part of this group.
Water Facts, the Reason Behind the Song
- 40% of U.S. rivers and lakes are too polluted for fishing
- The Clean Water Act1 only protects about 60% of the U.S. waters
- American beaches violate public health standards thousands of times a year
- coal-fired power plants dump millions of tons of toxic chemicals into waterways
- clean groundwater levels are dwindling
- harmful algae are present in many U.S. freshwater lakes
1 The Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972 and amended in 1977 and 1978
When I came upon the video "The Water Song," I immediately listened to it because of my love for music and nature. I was enthralled with the beauty of the melody and the native tongue of the singers.
Very little is available about these people and their language. I was unable to determine the relationship between Irene Wawatie Jerome, the song's creator, and Louise Wawatie, to whom the song was passed. Irene's middle name and Louise's surname suggest they are related. Part of the history indicates that Louise died in 2017, shortly after appointing Nancy Andry to carry on the mission of spreading the song to preserve the purity of the Earth's waters.
While there are many women’s beautiful water songs from many different cultures, the "Water Song" in the subject video has a lyric that is easy to learn and does not take a long time to sing. Anyone can sing it.
I undoubtedly will be listening to and singing the song again and again because it speaks to the heart and soul of our essence, nature. I do ask forgiveness of the Wawatie and Commanda families if I have misinterpreted the words of the song. I offered it in what I perceived the spirit of the song to be, and I hope to have inspired readers of this article to share the song with their family and friends.
Do you think you'll be singing "The Water Song?"
Dion, Joseph F.; My Tribe the Crees - a first-hand account of daily life of the Cree from the days of hunting and fishing to life under government programs
McDonnell, Michael; Masters of America: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America - an enlightening history about the Anishinabe, a relatively aggressive tribe that dictated terms at trading posts and frontier forts of the 17th & 18th centuries.
Snider, Joshua Jacob; Outline for a Comparative Grammar of Some Algonquian Languages - a comparative grammar of five Algonquian languages, not comprehensive, but a good introduction, covering most parts of speech.
Credits and Resources
Thesis Bibliography - Allison Holden (Title of Louise Wawatie)
Kavasch, E. Barrie and Baar, Karen; American Indian Healing Arts; Bantam Books, New York, NY; 1999 "Glossary of Tribes," pp. 266, 268 ISBN 978-0-553-37881-8
Algonquian Language (Languages of the Anishinabe and Cree)
National Resources Defense Council (Water Pollution Facts)