This past September I filmed the All Nations Grand River water walk, and was also honoured to take part as a walker. Walking for the water is a ceremonial act meant to highlight your connection with the water, the medicines (plants), and the animals that you share your corner of this Earth with. The one carrying the water must always look forward and continue moving, allowing the water to flow as she always does. At the water carrier’s back is a staff-bearer. This person is protecting the water carrier, keeping her safe from traffic and obstacles. But, the staff-carrier has another task – each time the pair passes an animal killed by a car, the staff-bearer must pause, move the animal off the road and offer tobacco.
This honouring of dead animals touched my heart, and in truth offered some validation for the churning in my stomach I’ve always felt each time I’ve driven past roadkill. I’ve never been able to look at them simply as piles of fur on the road.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, this project began four years ago when I was living in Geraldton, Ontario. I was driving home from the grocery store after work, when I spotted the bright red pieces of a painted turtle shell shattered on the side of the road. I didn’t make it a kilometre before I turned back, knowing I needed to take a picture. It was all I could do.
In the spirit of the tobacco offered to the animals during the water walk, I hope this project will honour these animals. I hope it will highlight the individuality of the animals, and remind us that all living creatures are sacred. It’s an ongoing project, and I will be building it from here.