By Kelly Anne Smith
NORTH BAY – Her voice will be heard far and wide about why we have to save our planet. Autumn Peltier has committed to protecting lands and water, because they are sacred.
Avenues are rapidly opening up for new opportunities for Autumn to advocate for clean water and the environment. At twelve, she was just supposed to offer water to Prime Minister Trudeau, but bravely she told him he wasn’t doing enough to protect the water.
The original Water Walker’s prodigy was at Nipissing University as part of Living Library and Treaties Recognition Week. Autumn Peltier gave a presentation on her journey to protect Earth’s water. Her voice proud, she explained that her Auntie is the great Water Walker, Josephine Mandamin.
There was an air of excitement when Autumn spoke with her determination. Soon the winner for the International Children’s Peace Prize was to be announced. She told the audience that wasn’t important. It was vital that everyone takes a stand for water right along with her.
Autumn’s mother Stephanie said she didn’t win, yet. But Autumn was one of six children given an opportunity to tell her story to the world. Out of the 169 nominees, six children have been chosen to feature their stories on Nickelodeon, a cable and satellite television network with a reach of 96 million households in the U.S. and across Canada. Stephanie updated that she will be featured within the next six months.
“She will continue with her work protecting the water. She did say it’s not about winning a prize. This work is a way of life. She’ll continue doing this work because it’s for the water.”
The good news continues. Right after catching their breaths, Stephanie and Autumn found out they are off on another speaking adventure for Autumn. She is to be interviewed on the show Harry. Autumn will have the chance to speak to over a million people at once when she meets Harry Connick Jr.
“NBC Universal Studios contacted me last Friday. Harry TV who is Harry Connick Jr has invited her to be on his talk show in New York City and we’re going on December 13. We’re going to meet Harry Connick Jr which is exciting.
A scheduling conflict has Autumn turning down an invitation to speak at Algoma University and similarly, the gala for the Native Women’s Association of Canada must be given regrets.
Speaking up for water that gives life is in her bloodline. Great Auntie Josephine is famous for it. Josephine Mandamin learned of a prophecy and started to raise awareness by walking around Lake Superiour. Autumn Peltier looks like a wee waterwalker Josephine, perhaps because she is related to her but definitely because she is on a mission to save the planets water.
Nipissing University’s Elder in Residence Carol Guppy opened She Speaks Alongside the Water.
Tanya Lukin-Linklater emceed the event. She is the Director of Enji Giigdoyang – Office of Indigenous Inititiatives which hosted the event.
Autumn and her mother Stephanie are from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory. Stephanie spoke on the importance of water and women’s role in taking care of the water. “For nine months, you are in ceremony. Your first teaching is you being in the water before you are even born.” Stephanie emphasized that water is life. “This is the way of our people.”
Nipissing University Professor Dr. Carly Dokis, who is a member of Dokis First Nation talked about corporate disrespect of water. Dokis explained First Nations heard mistruths and had mistrust when lands were taken for toxic tailings ponds then given back ‘reclaimed.’ “They were told they can grow medicines better than before reclamation.
Paige Restoule also from Dokis First Nation spoke about her personal quests for water. She talked of organizing, along with Carly Dokis, traditional route canoe trips for youth. Restoule became emotional explaining her part in the protesting at Standing Rock. She remembered her fear as she protested DAPL alongside many others as they became boxed in by police and hired mercenaries. A fellow protestor was surrounded by three vehicles “He was one of us. He was just trying to get to us.”
Autumn sang the Water Song in Anishinaabemowin. “We are losing what we used to hunt and fish. We are keepers of generations to come. I do it for the water. It’s sacred. We all come from water.” She challenged those in the audience to take up the cause of protecting water.
“I shut down Hwy 17 last October. Anybody can do this. Water walking is one way to save the planet. Walking while carrying a bucket of water raises awareness. Nibi has spirit.”
Autumn was asked a question from the audience, would Autumn consider going north to stir up the youth to protect the land and water for in the territory of the Ring of Fire. “We just got rid of DeBeers and now “new giant is coming our way.”
Autumn as a baby was in a cradle board and a moss bed. Her mom says that when she hears Autumn speak, she can hear that she is soaking it up. She is listening, she is learning Stephanie says.
Great Auntie Josephine walked around Lake Superior in 2003 and continued to walk around all of the Great Lakes. Autumn went on her first water walk at 21 months. Auntie Josephine started walking when inspired by a prophecy warning of a future of scarce, expensive water. Auntie Josephine says “Just do it.”
Autumn says we need more voices to speak up for the water. When she presented a water bundle to PM Trudeau, she told him that she was unhappy with his choices concerning pipelines. Trudeau replied, “I understand that and I will protect the water.”
The Grade 8 student at Pontiac School Wiikwemkoong Manitoulin Island has even signed a treaty to protect grizzlies alongside Chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations.
Speaking for universal water rights, Autumn is determined in her mission. “What I’m doing now, I plan on doing for many years to come. This advocating is not just for the fame or just for the me being well-known. This is for my people and this is for the land and the water. Because water is so sacred. And that’s why we have to protect our water and that’s why I’m going to keep on advocating as long as I can.”