The Canadian Encyclopedia writes, “Peltier was appointed Chief Water Commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation and has spoken about the issue of contaminated water on Indigenous reserves in Canada at the United Nations. For her activism, Peltier was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2017, 2018 and 2019.”
Autumn Peltier was born and raised on the Canadian shores of Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes and the world’s largest freshwater supply. Peltier learned about the importance of clean water and respecting the environment from her great-aunt who was known as the “water walker.”
As the BBC reports, “Inspired by her aunt, Josephine Mandamin, who walked the shores of all five Great Lakes to raise awareness for water conservation and indigenous water rights, Autumn began speaking at community events about the importance of protecting Canada's water.”
"Water is one of the most sacred elements in our culture because we use this water in ceremony."
At the age of 12, she got international attention when she challenged Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Presenting him him with a ceremonial copper water bowl – a symbol of his responsibility to protect his nation’s water supply – Peltier told Trudeau, “I’m very unhappy with the choices you have made.” (Trudeau had recently support for several pipeline projects that drew sharp criticism from indigenous and environmental groups.)
His only response was “I understand that. I will protect the water.” But even a young girl knows politicians promise anything when the cameras are on.
Peltier’s public “scolding” gained her access and invitations to address conferences around the world. Speaking with passion and poise, Autumn Peltier has stood before the United Nations (UN) in New York, the UN General Assembly for the launch of the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development in 2018, and then again before the UN Global Landscapes Forum in 2019.
Moreover, she has also received the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers “for her exceptional advocacy and being an exceptional conservationalist.” And recognized and honoured as an Ontario Junior Citizen for her advocacy work. At the passing of her great-aunt in February 2019, Peltier was appointed her position as Chief Water Commissioner. Today, she is the “water walker” of her people.
What she has accomplished so far in her life is impressive for anyone, at any age. But let us not forget that Autumn Peltier has managed to achieve all of this before she was old enough to cast a vote.
When a child asked her, “What would you tell kids who want to speak out on behalf of others or the environment?” Peltier simply answered, “It is important to speak up on behalf of those who are too afraid to speak up. You can be the light in someone’s darkness.”
Getting to KNOW her has made me take a more serious thought on the severe drought I am living in here in Western America. We all need to keep it in mind, because it is a situation that affects the entire country. We need water, clean water, to grow the food we produce. We are not alone. There are millions of people around the world are having to ration what little water they are able to get. And many have to boil it because it is contaminated. Then there are those who are being denied this basic human right due to greed, instability and unrest in their country.
Water is everyone’s right. We need it to survive. We must not pollute it. And we must never hoard it. Like love, it should be given freely. Free of charge. And free of toxins, parasites, and any other harmful byproducts of our doing.
I might not be a kid, but I want my kids and their kids to have access to clean water. I am glad I got to know this "kid" and to know that someone is doing something to protect this natural treasure. May we all be like Autumn Peltier and understand that "We need water to survive and live and that's literally the only reason we're here today is water." May we all be an advocate, not just for life but life lived in abundance.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”