The Water Ritual

We had the pleasure of visiting the young women at Indigenous Roots, a community organization in East St. Paul founded by Sergio Cenoch Quiroz and Mary Anne Quiroz. Indigenous Roots started in 2007 as a drum and dance community circle known as Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli, promoting traditional Mexica-Nahua dance.

A lot of Indigenous Roots’ activities revolve around water the same way the Mexica-Nahua culture does. The Indigenous Nahuatl water ritual is a ceremony where individuals honor water as a life-giving, spiritual force by presenting offerings, singing and performing dances in the water.

Indigenous women wear traditional rebozos shawls and long skirts, and bring a bundle of sage, a sea shell and handfuls of flower petals as part of a ritual to honor water. The smell of the burning sage wafts from the shell that one of them holds in their hands, while the others scatter flower petals that end up on the surface of the water.

Atquetzali Quiroz, Sergio and Mary Anne’s daughter stated, “my parents actually named me Atquetzali, which means precious water.” Quiroz a is high schooler, dancer, and water walker in her community. "We believe that... water is alive, that there's a spirit in the water," says Quiroz. Quiroz performs the ritual at Lake Phalen regularly, along with Reyna Day and Amoreina Espinosa.

“A couple of reasons why we chose Lake Phalen is that a lot of community events happen there,” said Day, a high schooler who volunteers at the organization and who has been a water walker for many years. “I feel like within Indigenous communities water has always been an important aspect and a connection to ourselves and our body, spirit, and mind.” Reyna describes.

Amoreina Espinosa is a part of International Indigenous Youth Council in the Twin Cities chapter along with Quiroz and Day. Amoreina is a water protector advocating to keep water from being endangered. “I've learned to not take water for granted…[because of] what other people go through when they don't have clean water, and [it] really teaches me to cherish it.”

Aside from burning sage and offering flowers, Quiroz, Day and Espinosa also sing during the ritual, which can be heard in the video.

Lyrics to the song for the water ritual, sung in Nahuatl

“Process of blossoming within you. Begin as a sprout which blossoms,

each one of us should become the singer of our own life.

Not doing what society, others, tell us to do,

we do things with our own conviction.”

Amoreina Espinosa (left) and Reyna Day (right) stand for a portrait at Lake Phalen. Photo by Iyana Esters | The Water Main