Autumn Peltier

Women of Influence - March 3, 2020

Autumn Peltier
March 03, 2020
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… Recognized for their hard work. As I look around the room, I see many amazing women here today; and I think of how I’m one of these women, amongst this group. For age 15, I’m thinking that’s a pretty big deal, and I feel very honored.

If you asked me five years ago if I’d given it any thought, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I never imagined standing in a room full of grownups delivering … key note addresses around the world.

I began speaking for clean water for indigenous communities when I was 8 years old. At that time, seeing little kids run around not knowing what clean drinking water from a tap was, really bothered me. I felt badly and tried to understand why in Canada this was happening. My next discovery was finding out it was primarily the indigenous communities right across Canada. This is where I began learning that indigenous children live with boil water advisories in northern Ontario. Then I learned that some of these communities haven’t been able to drink their water for over twenty five years and to this day.

Not far from here, Six Nations along the Grand River, Sonya, Manitoulin Island, and a large area of the north, can't drink their water.

It was within the next few months after learning about boil water advisories that everything that my family has been doing my whole life started to make sense – attending ceremonies, water walks, meetings, and different water ceremonies. I started to see why my great-auntie was walking and praying. Josephine never stopped working for the waters and she sacrificed so much to bring this awareness to everyone. I really started to admire Josephine and her commitment to creating awareness about Canada’s water crisis. When no one really understood where, we were in the middle of one.

But I've learned those things in life means so much more when you can relate to the people who are suffering. The expression my people say is “walk a mile in our moccasins.” when you live it and experience the pain and suffering other people, then you then you can speak to what the issues are.

My people who are in a critical time right now. Hundreds of years later, they're still fighting for solidarity and trying to get the federal government to honor our original treaties. For once, let the land and the animals win in this long dispute. We depend on the earth, animals, and plants. We need the water protected.

My auntie was 77 years old when she passed away, exactly one year ago. She spoke up for the water since 2003. She was and is still my inspiration. Her health deteriorated … and really affected me – how she kept going until her last days. When she left us, I wondered what would happen to the water and who would keep her work going. I also wondered, if I will still be doing this work if I make it to 77.

That’s 62 years away.

If the planet even lasts 60 more years. Lots of big thoughts youth should not be worried about. When the children start to notice, then you know something is very wrong.

My auntie Josephine told me, the day before she passed, to keep going. Things are going to get hard; people will stop you, but don’t stop.

Don’t stop the work and keep loving the water.

I had no idea she was mentoring me; and then one day I would be honored imprint on her role, as the chief water commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation. Those are big footprints to follow, but she cleared the way – for all of us. So many bad things have been happening, and my message and her work continues. I have traveled across the ocean a few times to share my teachings and story. I've been from ocean to ocean and to the United States. I’ve spoken in front of world leaders at the World Economic Forum and the United Nations.

My message is being heard. I do this in honor of her and for my people. I do this for the ones that don't have a voice, and for my great-great-grandchildren, who are aren’t even here yet. I do this for our planet so we could have a future. I think about how one day, I’m going to be an ancestor and I want my grandchildren to know I tried my best to make the world a better place. I also think about how my ancestors prayed for me. They pray for each and every one of you sitting here today. You are someone’s hope and prayer – and that's what keeps me going.

With that last thought, and in closing, the land is our government; everything that affects the land, impacts us. Just like a baby in the womb. Whatever we do, whatever we eat, it affects the baby. We are part of this land and we need to work together no matter what color we are; what nationality we are; and no matter how rich or poor we are. We all need clean water and we all need to live together in harmony. My auntie would tell me, that we can do this and we just have to do it. Stop waiting and put your ideas into action – because we are running out of time. Be the change and just do it. Thank you.

Peltier, A. [Rebecca Jaron]. (2020, March 3) Autumn Peltier at Women of Influence []. Retrieved on April 9, 2022 from