The Wisdom and Voices of Women
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
A number women have generously shared their wisdom and their work on behalf of the Great Lakes Basin, so for Women's History Month, here are excerpts from their interviews.
Sunset from St. Joseph, MI (photo by Dan Robinson)
“Where is this call coming from? Who is actually calling us back? It’s Her. Everyone still calls her Mother Earth. Why? It’s not just Anishinaabe people... That’s foundational in a lot of
Anishinaabe teachings, but it’s also foundational in a lot of people’s teachings. If you think about who it is that brings forth that care and that healing. Who is it? It’s Her. And if you think about what we’re modeling now, it’s the patriarchy, the mainstream patriarchy, that has become this existence that has just consumed the world. And there She is, struggling to pull Herself back, and She’s calling very deeply.”
-Katy Brisette, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe) tribe, and runs, along with her partner Jerry Jondreau, Dynamite Hill Farms in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
“We get maybe overeager as to what we can do to help, and then we don’t really sit back and really listen to the environment. Or really watch and observe it. It has its own cycles. Resilience has been a huge theme in my life up to this point. And I think resilience is something that we see all the time in nature. So, I feel we have a lot to learn in terms of patience, resilience, understanding, appreciation from our lakes.”
-Stephanie Prechter, a Michigan-based professional photographer whose work has also included suicide prevention and promoting brain health
“Water was really one of the reasons we were all here (on the Leelanau Peninsula). And I felt that it might be important to have some kind of a tribute or a blessing, maybe a water blessing... Your thoughts are very powerful. Just thinking, ‘thank you,’ is extremely important. To just kind of quietly hold a moment of joy that's coming from your heart is very important.”
-Marie Elena Gaspari, a master wisdom teacher with 40 years of spiritual exploration, study, and practice, as well as an award-winning poet
“I read a chapter by a woman named Jennifer Harvey in a book called Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry. That was a book done in collaboration with white descendants of settlers, Christians
in Canada, as well as indigenous thinkers, both Christian and non-Christian. And Jennifer Harvey wrote an article that really pricked my conscience and got me thinking. She said, ‘Christians who are concerned about the environment and working for the land must take seriously (and if they don't take it seriously, it's almost as good as not doing it at all) must take seriously the idea of reparations or return of land to the people whose land this originally was, must take seriously land reparation to Indigenous communities.’”
-Brenna Cussen-Anglada, a member of the St. Isidore Catholic Worker Farm in southwest Wisconsin and part of “The Four Necessity Valve Turners,” who await trial for attempting to turn off a valve on Enbridge Energy Corporation’s Line 3 pipeline
“The native people who have been fortunate enough to remain on their ancestral lands have this really deep connection. It's almost like a dance, if you are connected to land for such a long time. You sort of adapt yourself to the rhythms of the seasonal cycle. You plant at a certain time, you celebrate at a certain time, and if you're able to adapt yourself to the rhythms of this landscape, that's fine... European settlers didn't adapt to the rhythms of this landscape. They superimposed their own rhythms onto it. And I think that's led us to where we are today.
“So, Seventh-Generation Thinking tells us that in this generation, we have an obligation to act in a certain way and to make decisions for the benefit of those that will be on this earth seven generations into the future. So we're thinking about 200 years, what's best for my great grandchildren and your great, great, great grandchildren. And it obligates you to this sort of selflessness and this generosity and wisdom and farsightedness... And we need that kind of thinking more than ever. I think there's probably no greater gift that native people can give mainstream society.
-Dr. Patty Loew, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, a professor in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and Director of Northwestern’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research
“At the time of darkness of environmental and climate injustices to the most vulnerable, current and future generations at home and around the world, it is important for us to do
everything we can. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is reported to have said: If doomsday is about to take place while anyone of you has a tree sapling in your hand, which you can cultivate, then cultivate it for you will be rewarded. This active message of hope inspires me, as I consider Wisconsin Green Muslims to be my tree sapling that is full of possibilities and challenges.”
-Huda Alkaff, an ecologist, environmental educator, and the Founder and Director of Wisconsin Green Muslims
– “The Clean Water Act and Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement goals of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes, which is what their goal is stated, should include spiritual - to restore and maintain the physical, chemical, biological and spiritual integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes, or
maybe of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
“The mindset of what we're doing is good, (I think there's been a lot of good restoration work
done and there's been some protection done), but if we're going to do things to the Great Lakes to give them back their integrity, we have to do something just as much to ourselves. Because, if we're getting a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to build habitat here, and meanwhile we're allowing one more subdivision into the floodplain (which is what we're doing) then we're not considering ourselves as part of the integrity of that water system. So, it's a spiritual thing. It's like we are part of this. It is continuous with us. It's not separate and something we can fiddle with.”
-Dr. Margaret Wooster, a former director of Great Lakes United, as an environmental activist and writer whose focuses on protecting the waterways and wetlands of western New York state
“Anything that tries to transcend or see mortality or death as somehow wrong, or limited, it just doesn't work for me. I would like to think I have a spiritual understanding or sense of
engagement and embeddedness in the watershed and in the Great Lakes and in place. But it's not at all about transcendence or eternity or something other than things of the earth... Human endeavors are not necessarily where my sense of value lies. My sense of value lies in the water, in the air and the birds and the earth. But it doesn't have to transcend death.”
-Dr. Nancy Langston, a Distinguished Professor of Environmental History at Michigan Tech University, member of the Great Lakes Research Center, and author of the book, Sustaining Lake Superior
“To think that we little human beings can really do this without the intervention of something much deeper and bigger than ourselves is a bit arrogant, I feel. And so it seems to me that all of the faith traditions can come together. We all have a piece of this truth and that if we can all come together and understand the best of our own and how to work together, that we might actually be able to have a shot at addressing this."
-Michele Naar-Obed, a member of the Hildegard House Catholic Worker in Duluth, Minnesota and part of “The Four Necessity Valve Turners,” who await trial for attempting to turn off a valve on Enbridge Energy Corporation’s Line 3 pipeline
“We have to do this together. It's OK if one of us does something, but we can do so much more together.”
-Sr. Caroline Sullivan, a member of the Sinsinawa, WI Dominican Community and led the Bridge Between retreat center and farm in northeast Wisconsin for a number of years