The four-year cycle is nearing completion and will culminate with a weekend of gratitude Friday, July 10, through Sunday, July 12.

It’s the fourth annual – and presumably the final – Water Walk in Monona.

Organizer Dianné Aldrich that from the beginning the walk was meant to be a four-year project.

“The four-year cycle is part of many Native American ceremonies,” she said. “There are four doors in a sweat lodge, four nights in a vision quest, four ages of the life cycle and four seasons.”

The first year of the water walk was one of raising awareness; it, too, was a three-day event. The second and third years, both of which were much smaller events, focused on prayer and healing for the water, respectively. This fourth year is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.

“This year should be comparable or bigger than the first year,” Aldrich said.

July 10 activities include an evening concert with three-time Grammy award winning Native American singer and songwriter Bill Miller. Local musicians will also join to present “With My Own Two Hands.” The concert will be held at Monona Grove High School.

On July 11, at Frost Woods Beach, Native American elders and local water experts will offer presentations in a teaching teepee. A sweat lodge ceremony and a women’s moon lodge ceremony will also be offered.

Sunday, July 12, will begin with the blessing of the water, and then everyone is invited to participate in a 17-mile walk around Lake Monona, complete with the beating of drums throughout the walk as another sign of gratitude.

“That drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth,” Aldrich said. “We will be drumming in gratitude for the many improvements made to area watersheds and also mourning the fact that waters are still being polluted.”

After the walk, a community feast will be offered after for all volunteers and participants.

Participants are invited to camp at Frost Woods Beach throughout the long weekend, but Aldrich noted that no drugs or alcohol will be allowed.

Aldrich said the beach was selected, because it was a favorite spot for members of the Ho-Chunk tribe to gather.

“We want to bring people back and spend time on that land,” she said. “Our plans are to offer a variety of activities for people to connect to the water walk.”

Aldrich sad one example of the crisis facing water and other natural resources is frack mining, a method for extracting oil and natural gas from the earth.

“In frack mining, tons of earth are literally being trucked out of Wisconsin,” she said. “We are also in a very real global water crisis.”

Aldrich is not planning the water walk events on her own. She said there is a core committee of about six people who are also helping. There is still a need for volunteers before the event and throughout the weekend. Sponsors are also still being sought.

The weekend is intended to be a family event, and children are invited to participate with their parents.

“If we don’t share and educate our youths to be stewards of the earth, we’re not leaving a healthy legacy for our children and grandchildren,” she said. “It is important for people to have been grateful for the work that has been done on behalf of the waters. The other piece I want to truly impress upon people is that we are the stewards of the waters, stewards of the earth, and we need to take care of our resources.”

All weekend events are free (donations accepted for the Miller concert) and are open to the public.

To help or donate, or for more information about activities, visit www.lakemononawaterwalk.org.

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