Image: Autumn Peltier Instagram
“We can’t eat money, or drink oil.”
Born on September 27, 2004, Autumn is only 15 years old and has already made speeches and presentations to the UN and Prime Minister Trudeau – No wonder they call her a “Water Warrior”. Last year the Anishnaabek people nominated her as the Chief Water Commissioner after her Aunt Josephine, the previous commissioner, passed away. Autumn was born and raised on Manitoulin Island, Northern Ontario. She is Anishnaabek-kwe and a Member of the Wikwemikong First Nation.
Autumn is like me only in that we were both assigned female at birth, both feminists struggling to have a voice in today’s patriarchal society, and we both care about the unequal and unfair distribution of resources in Canada. Specifically access to clean water. Many reserves are suffering due to the lack of assistance and supplies necessary to ensure a clean water distribution system. I looked it up today and as of this moment there are 61 Reserves in Canada that don’t have clean water due to the Unsafe and inadequate sanitation systems and most of those communities have been on this list for more than a year. Reserves only make up 1% of Canada’s land so it’s pretty messed up that THAT many communities don’t have access to clean water, even though we do… and we are constantly replacing and upgrading systems here in Montreal. What is going on??!
Autumn and I definitely share more differences than we do similarities, the most prominent one being that I grew up privileged, I AM privileged, I am white and a settler on unceded land and I grew up being able to drink water straight from the tap freely and brush my teeth without the fear of getting sick. Autumn did not have this….She experienced her first Water Boil Advisory when she was 8 years old and it became immediately apparent to her that something was wrong with how the system sidelined her Reserve’s needs for the basic human right to access to clean water. Priorities were clearly being placed elsewhere and so she decided to speak up about the unfair and unequal distribution of resources in Canada.
I am a little bit older than most of my classmates and I can recognize in their generation, and in Autumn’s generation, a passion and determination to hear that I haven’t seen within my own and the generations before me, ever act with such voracity and urgency that I see in the youth of today. They have a sophisticated voice championing their cause and I am utterly impressed. I think that is how I measure the ability to be inspirational – being so impressive to others that it moves them to respond with action. Autumn has impressed me with her bravery, her tenacity, resilience and determination to be heard. She is going up against the biggest institutions and I am consistently impressed.
Biographical Information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn_Peltier
Statistics on Reserves with Water Boil Advisories: https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1506514143353/1533317130660
Autumn Peltier Quotes: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/canadian-indigenous-water-activist-autumn-peltier-addresses-un-on-clean-water-1.5301559