13-year-old recognized as water protectorFirst Nations girl honored
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent
nativesunnews.today MANITOULIN ISLAND, CANADA – The fight to protect clean water for future generations continues across the world. In Canada, a 13-year-old girl has made this fight her life’s mission. On Thursday, March 22, First Nations teen and water advocate from Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Autumn Peltier (Anishinaabe – Wikwemikong, First Nation in Canada) was invited to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, New York. Peltier’s presentation was done in support of the U.N.’s International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development. During her speech, Peltier told the General Assembly to “warrior up” when it comes to protecting clean drinking water for future generations, from a stool she stood on during her powerful speech. In 2017, Autumn Peltier was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize; for the work she’s put in since she was 8 years old as a clean water advocate working to bring awareness on a national level in Canada. And now in 2018, she has received her second nomination for the international award for children “whose courageous or otherwise remarkable actions have made a difference in improving children’s rights, which helps children worldwide” according to childrenspeaceprize.org. The International Children’s Peace Prize has been around since the 2005 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates held in Rome, Italy. The Nkosi (statuette prize) is given to the winner by a Nobel Peace Laureate. Along with the prize given to the winner, funding is provided by KidsRights to the country whose citizen is awarded, in the area of work of the winner.
According to her “momager” Stephanie Peltier, presenting at the United Nations General Assembly last week almost didn’t happen. Autumn’s mother and manager said she was receiving emails from the United Nations; which she thought was spam emails and kept deleting. Finally, she replied and the invitation to present was as real as it gets, according to the momager. In a phone interview with Native Sun News Today while on their way to the airport to travel to another speaking engagement in Canada, both Stephanie and Autumn shared part of the journey of the young water protector and the whirlwind of promotional appearances they have been doing. Peltier’s advocacy began at a young age. Protecting indigenous rights and clean water has been a part of her family’s legacy for many years. She credits her aunt Josephine for teaching her the importance of “protecting the water”. It was through this indoctrinated activism which led to enter to enter a speaking contest in her community at the age of 8. “I entered into this speaking contest. I wrote my speech about water and protecting the environment. I won that contest three years in a row,” said the First Nations child warrior. Through her own desire to follow in her Aunt Josephine’s footsteps and her mother’s support and guidance, Autumn’s voice has been a part of the international stage for the last four years. In 2015, she was invited to Sweden for a conference on the environment. “Since I returned from doing the speech in Sweden, I’ve been doing the work I’m doing now,” she said humbly. “My auntie Josephine is getting older and it’s more difficult for her to do this work. She can’t really travel a lot. I’m trying to take over on that role that she’s been doing.”
In March of 2018, Peltier was awarded a Vice-Regal Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. This award was is a high honor for any First Nations community member, especially one who has barely reached her teen years. This international recognition has born in her a desire to become politically active in Canada. “I plan on going to a university and studying political science and going to law school. I would like to become a politician,” said Autumn. This is the second year in a row for Peltier to be nominated for the International Children’s Peace Award. The family excitedly awaits the results. They find out if she has won in Nov. 2018. “It would be a huge honor to win that award and it would give me an opportunity to advocate stronger for clean water,” she said. Clean water in Canada, much like in areas like Standing Rock, South Dakota, is a major issue and concern. Decades of mining and environmental abuses have contaminated the waters ways and lakes to the point of making them unhealthy for human contact. “A lot of First Nations people in Canada can’t drink they’re water. They are under boil water advisories. There’s a lot of poor communities with pipelines going through their communities, too,” said the Anishinaabe teen. Autumn Peltier encourages other indigenous youth to take up the movement for clean water rights and wants others to use her life as a symbol for motivation. Stephanie Peltier is a strong supporter of her daughter’s message. We’ve gotten bombarded with requests, since she came home from the United Nations last week. I guess you can say I’m her 'momager.' I arrange all her engagements,” she said.
In order to ensure that her daughter’s message meets the standards of her community, the proud mother sits with daughter and practices speeches and makes sure the content is focused, concise and poignant, but she concedes that it is Autumn who develops the ideas “in her notebook.” “I make sure she’s representing the people in a good way and her message is clear. I drive her everywhere. I’m just behind the scenes supporting her,” said Stephanie. The trip to New York City to the United Nations General Assembly speech almost didn’t happen. “We just came back from a big trip and I got an email back in fall last year. It was from the United Nations. I thought it was spam,” the momager said. Receiving an email from the president of the United Nations was too unbelievable for the protective mother. Finally she opened the email and accepted the invitation.
“They were inviting Autumn to speak at World Water Day, that happened last week on March 22,” said Stephanie. “They’re launching a ten year program for sustainable water development. They wanted to open up with her talking about the water.” This historical speech was the first time a First Nations girl has spoken in front of General Assembly on the world stage. According to her mother, she did her community proud. Deadlines for the International Children’s Peace Prize was March 21, 2018. As a member of an indigenous nation, Autumn Peltier spoke for millions around the world when she stood on a stool in order to reach the microphone to announce the importance of clean water. In closing Autumn Peltier says, “When I say water is life, water is alive, it means that water has a spirit. The water feels things just as much as humans do. That’s why in my speeches I say, ‘Water should have human rights,’ because water should be treated like a human. Water has a spirit. We need to protect water.” Contact Native Sun News Today Correspondent Richie Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright permission Native Sun News Today