Autumn Peltier

World Water Day at the United Nations - March 22, 2018

Autumn Peltier
March 22, 2018
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… my voice. I'm doing this work as we can't just pray anymore – we must do something, and we need to do it now. I need to get right into this message, so you feel where I'm coming from. I can't stress enough what I have learned about the water from my elders in our ceremonies. Many people don't think water is alive or has a spirit. My people believe this to be true – there are studies now that prove this. We believe our water is sacred because we were born of water and live in water for nine months. When the water breaks, new life come, but even deeper than that we come from our mother's water and her mother's water and so on. All the original water flows through us from the beginning and all around us.

Where I come from I'm so fortunate I could still drink the water from the lake, but as sometimes I question it not far from where I live there are communities that have lived through boil water advisories. I ask myself, why is it this way and why in my province? Why in my country? I didn't really understand this because I always hear the problems in other countries around the world having no water or very polluted water. I really started to think, my mind wondered and thought, what if we ran out of water?

I didn't really understand this because I always hear the problems in other countries around the world having no water very polluted water. What will happen? Then I got scared this is serious and it's all over the world – water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth. Whether it's frozen, in the form of rain or clouds, in rivers, lakes, and oceans waters around us and sustains us all.

Everything is connected to this issue of clean water, and this impacts our health and well-being. These thoughts bring me to a story shared by my grandfather the world, in our language that says “Ode nid.” We use this word when we say we are going to town or the city, but it really means where your heart is. My heart is in our land, in our water. My heart is where I come from – ask yourself for your heart is where is your spirit? My heart and spirit is where my community is and where my ancestors are buried, where the water is fresh and I can drink from the lake. My grandfather told me to remind everyone where your heart is. As we need our land to live and we can't be here without the land and the water. We are all connected. My heart is not for sale, and neither is our water in our lands.

So now, here we are, all together, on March 22nd on a World Water Day at the United Nations. We are here to launch the International decade for action, water for sustainable development. My first thought is, I will be 23 years old in 2028 – in my mind I have taken a photo of where we are today, where we are at with various issues surrounding our water. My snapshot doesn't feel good in terms of pollution, climate change, pipelines braking, recycling, sanitation, poverty, hunger, and illnesses related to these issues. All I can do is keep helping my auntie educate others and share a story of how we need to respect Mother Earth and need to honor our sacred water.

One day I will be an ancestor and I want my great-grandchildren to know I tried hard to fight so they can have clean drinking water. Our water deserves to be treated as human with human rights. We need to acknowledge our waters with personhood so we could protect our waters. Our water should not be for sale; we all have a right to this water as we need it – not just rich people, all people. No one should have to worry if the water is clean or if they will run out of water. No child should grow up not knowing what clean water is, or never knowing what running water is.

Mr. President, we need to work together. Now is the time to warrior up and empower each other to take a stand for our planet. We need to sustain the little we have now and develop ways not to pollute the environment, and sustain relationships with Mother Earth and save what we have left. I hope to keep my heart in a good place so it can come back and see how much we all have improved with our promise to Mother Earth. Let's not let water and Mother Earth down. [Speaks in Indigenous language], thank you.

Peltier, A. [CBC News]. (2018, March 22) Autumn Peltier, 13-year-old water advocate, addresses UN []. Retrieved on April 9, 2022 from