Our Story

Biinaagami is working together

“Without water, we will not survive,” says Elder Barbara Nolan of Garden River First Nation as the waves of Lake Huron lap gently onto the shore of Mnidoo Mnising (“Island of the Great Spirit” or Manitoulin Island). Beside her sits Elder/Gezit Donna Debassige of Anishinabek Nation. “Biinaagami: there is no way to bring it back if we lose it,” says Debassige.

Biinaagami is the word gifted to this project by these two women, both water protectors. In Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Anishinaabek Peoples, Biinaagami can be interpreted as “clean water.” Biinad means something is clean, while aagami comes from another part of a word referring to the state of a liquid. “When it’s clear,” explains Nolan, “it’s Biinaagami.”

Clear, clean water is a right — and a shared responsibility. That’s what we hope to evoke through Biinaagami.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence watershed is the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem. This network of waterways is known as the lungs of the earth, and it’s home to diverse peoples, places and wildlife. It has been stewarded by the Original Peoples of these lands and waters since time immemorial. More recently, these shared waters have been managed by Canada and the United States. To protect and restore this life-giving watershed requires a multi-nation approach. It needs all of us.

Biinaagami is a multimedia, change-provoking initiative rooted in Indigenous knowledges. We aim to uplift voices, to connect people with their watershed, to tell stories that engage and inspire, to bring people together to understand the history and the future of the Great Lakes. Biinaagami is a community — and a space for stories to be told. Through ceremony, mapping, inclusive storytelling, augmented reality, experiential learning, community-based water monitoring hubs and ecosystem restoration, Biinaagami aims to rebuild just and healthy relations between wildlife and water, people and place.

Dip a toe into the water with us.

Explore the watershed