A group of mostly Ojibwe women are walking the entire length of the Mississippi River, praying for its health and drawing attention to the polluted water.
After walking through a snowstorm along a highway with passing snow plows, the Mississippi River Water Walkers take a break in Dakota, Minnesota, across the river from La Crosse.
They sing a song in Ojibwe. It translates to "Water, we love you. We thank you. We respect you."
The group is carrying a copper pail of water from the Mississippi River headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, a 1,200-mile journey. Co-organizer Sharon Day says in the north, the water is clean and pure, and in the south, the river is a dead zone: "So we want to give her a taste of how she started and hope for how she can be again."
The Water Walkers are educating people along their trip about river pollution from chemicals and farm runoff. Day says if the water quality continues to degrade, she is concerned that future generations won't be able to drink the water. "And if we don't have water. The earth will continue. She's continuing to cleanse herself, but we as a species may not."
Fellow walker Marya Bradley says it is possible to break to cycle of pollution and to think more about water conservation.
"This feels important that people who see that and recognize that we don't have to accept that. That we can change it. That we can say no to it. That can say, 'Water matters.' And that we are the tenders of it; that we must be, that we must take care and change the way we live."
The group expects to make it to the Gulf of Mexico by the end of April. You can track the progress of the trek here.