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Roughly a dozen Indigenous preteens from southwestern Ontario took part in a "Water Walk" along the Thames River in London. The walk is meant to give thanks to nature and raise awareness about water pollution. (Chris dela Torre) It wasn’t an ordinary walk by the river.

About a dozen Indigenous teens and preteens walked from Ontario Hall on Western University campus to the Forks of the Thames River in downtown London.

It was part of a Water Walk, meant to raise awareness about the vulnerability of the earth’s supply of clean water, and to give thanks for the river’s life-giving quality.

"A lot of the kids are very aware of the current court battle [between the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and Enbridge] over Line 9," said Amanda Myers, the youth outreach coordinator for UWO Indigenous Services.

"They’re very conscious of the effect that the pipeline might have on our river system here."

The Water Walk is inspired by Anishinawbe elder Josephine Mandamin, who walked the perimeter of the Great Lakes in the 2000s to raise awareness about water pollution issues.

The four kilometre walk from UWO to the Forks is just one activity on the itinerary for Mini University – a week-long camp for First Nations children, run by Western University’s Indigenous Services.

Alisha, 12, from Bothwell, took part of the Walk.

"It’s been fun. About halfway, I got tired. But I’m fine now. It’s really fun. I’d want to do this every summer."

As part of the Water Walk, the group also dropped a tobacco offering into the river, acknowledging pollution in the Thames.

"Tobacco is a medicine for us. It’s very sacred," said Myers.

"It’s about communication. Whenever we need to connect and share our thoughts and love and prayers with any part of creation, tobacco is one of the plants that agreed to do that," she said.

Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre met with the group while at the Forks of the Thames. For more listen to the audio version of the story here.

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