Water Guru: Autumn Peltier

Water Guru: Autumn Peltier

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting inspiring leaders, educators, and mentors in the world of water.

Remember the name Autumn Peltier.

Though we’re only just starting to read up on Peltier’s impressive impact as the Anishinabek Nation chief water commissioner, we are so impressed with all of the work she is doing to educate the world about the sacredness of water, as her ancestors did before her. At just 17 years old, Peltier is rising alongside teen activists like Greta Thunberg to lead the next generation of the earth’s keepers.

Born into the Anishinaabe group of indigenous peoples of the Canadian Great Lakes region, Peltier became interested in clean-water activism via her great-aunt Josephine Mandamin — a founding member of the Anishinabek Nation’s water protection movement, and the Mother Earth Water Walk.

As a kid on Lake Erie’s Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world, Peltier became increasingly aware of and concerned by the fact that there were boiled-water advisories on her own land.

In an address delivered to the United Nations in 2018 when she was just 13 years-old, Peltier said, “It all started by learning why people couldn’t drink the water on Ontario’s indigenous lands. I was confused, as Canada is not a third-world country, but here in my country, the indigenous people live in third-world conditions.” 

Recognizing a national crisis

Peltier began to research the issue, and discovered it was widespread across Canada. Then, she learned about water crises in the States in places like Flint, Michigan.

The more she learned about issues across not only her peoples’ nation, but across America, “it was like a lightbulb went off,” as she told the U.N. Suddenly, she realized why her great aunt was so passionate about her cause: “She brings me to what means the most to me, and what I’ve been learning and sharing: the sacredness of water.”

'Our ancestors drank from the same water'

Nominated three times for the International Children’s Peace Prize, Peltier continues her activism in Canada and beyond. We’re so inspired by her dedication and wisdom. At her young age, she is already educating others about what we’ve only just begun to comprehend: that all of the Earth’s water is cyclical, and must be protected to be preserved.

As Peltier reminded the U.N., “Our ancestors drank from the same water thousands of years before us.” No child should have to experience not knowing what clean water is. It’s a basic human right. And we all need to work together to protect it.

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