The first walk on this series was all about water systems in Winnipeg, corresponding to the spring thaw and return of the floodwaters. Gathering on the banks of the Red River along Waterfront Drive, this walk brought Winnipeggers together to hear from local leaders:
Elder Aldeen Star Mason shared teachings on the traditional cultural and spiritual significance of water for Indigenous peoples, and on Indigenous struggles to defend and promote safe and clean water for all people.
Alexia Legere from Mama Bear Clan spoke on community relationships with the rivers, both as a place of healing and solace, and as a place with risk and uncertainty. She shared the experiences of Mama Bear Clan volunteers in patrolling the riverbanks, connecting with people, and building resilient communities.
Bill Rannie, senior scholar in Geography at the University of Winnipeg shared information on the geological history of the Red and Assiniboine watersheds, including the cycles of flooding and the changes with colonization and massive infrastructure projects.
Adele Perry and Angelina McLeod offered insight on Winnipeg’s drinking water aqueduct and the ways in which the city’s colonial approach has had devastating impacts on the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. They demonstrated that the city’s water links Winnipeg to other communities, raising the issue of how colonization and racism privilege certain communities over others.
Chris Penner, restoration biologist, explored the issues facing our city’s riverbank habitats, discussing the roles of flooding in creating ever-changing ecosystems, and the challenges facing urban ecosystems, including invasive species. Paul Mutch, Naturalist Services at the City of Winnipeg, then shared ideas on approaches to riverbank habitat management, and the importance of community partnerships in restoring and maintaining our rivers’ ecosystems.
Dimple Roy from the International Institute for Sustainable Development discussed options and opportunities to reduce the downstream impacts of storm-water runoff and sewage spills on Lake Winnipeg, highlighting the need to protect Winnipeg’s “back yard”.
Glen Manning, principal with HTFC Planning & Design, brought walk participants to John Hirsch Way to see examples of how green infrastructure solutions can help Winnipeg manage water in more resilient ways.