Autumn Peltier: Legacy & Action
“I do not do this work for media or award recognition, I do it for all my people and the environment.”
— Autumn Peltier
Do you ever pause to wonder what we’re normalizing for the coming generations of humanity? I’ve just celebrated my 33rd birthday. Some might say I’m “getting up there” in years, at least when specifically considering motherhood. I’ve struggled for a long while in the consideration of having a child. I live in a culture that is reliant on fossil fuels, with little to no traditions or guidelines on collective nurturing or stewardship to the planet- especially those specific to the region I now live in, with sensitivities towards phases and seasons. I turn to my blood, and North African traditions as I learn them, though these old ways are not made for this land. For most of you reading this, the same can likely be assumed. I don’t think the answer is to stop having children, but to perhaps learn to rewrite what it means to be a parent, and to engage within a community. We now primarily seek identity and validation through outward appearance and habit - what we consume, watch, or buy, and how we apply those things to our lives. These are decorations which can never satisfy our core desire to connect with others, or find who we are.
What @autumn.peltier, Anishinabek Nation Chief Water Commissioner, so graciously speaks to here is the importance of legacy. Who we are in practice is what we will pass down. There is no other way than to live the truth of what we wish humanity to become. This is what it means to “be the ancestors your descendants would be proud of,” said by @winonaladuke, water protector, and Bear Clan member of the Anishinaabeg.
It’s a true blessing to see people such as Autumn giving thanks to her inherited role, rather than tossing it aside. In my gratitude, I hope to amplify her message. Perhaps those at the top who make the most mess, the most noise, and the most demand are really beginning to understand the true need for wisdom, so much of which has been pushed away for the sake of capitalism and gratuitous progress. Or perhaps the coin, food and wine no longer satisfy. Regardless of the reason, these voices are finally beginning to rise like the sun, shining undeniable truth. Will we burn in stubbornness, or bask in the light of change?
As stated in Canadian publication The Globe & Mail:
“There are 56 First Nations communities across Canada under long-term boil-water advisories, the longest of which have lasted nearly 25 years. Worse, some types of contaminations are resistant to being boiled. Others don’t even need to be consumed to be toxic, such as trihalomethanes (THMs), which recently forced Northern Ontario First Nations community Attawapiskat to declare a state of emergency. THMs are linked to an elevated risk of cancer. They can be absorbed through the skin, making showering and even washing your hands a danger.
Autumn travelled to New York this week to speak at the Indigenous march within Friday’s climate strike. She will also deliver a speech at the Global Landscapes Forum at the United Nations on Saturday. This will be her second speech at the UN in as many years.
“I’m here to tell people about the importance of water, and to educate people on a cultural and spiritual level,” Autumn said. “They need to know that we need to act now.”
Autumn, who is from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario, took over the role of chief water commissioner from her great-aunt, Josephine Mandamin, another water activist who Autumn says heavily inspired her. Autumn is about 50 years younger than Ms. Mandamin was when she took the title. She has recently been nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize by the David Suzuki Foundation for her environmentalism.”