Autumn Peltier, one of many young voices against the climate crisis, is stirring up a storm. Indeed, we are witnessing a mass, youth-led movement against climate change. From the recent UN Youth Climate Summit to the Zero Hour movement, young people are uniting in a common cause. And they’re demanding our attention.
They’re fighting for environmental justice. For governments to take a stand against climate change. And most importantly, for their futures. At the front line of this battle is Autumn Peltier, an international advocate for clean water.
Who is Autumn Peltier?
Autumn Peltier is a 15-year-old, indigenous, clean water activist. She’s a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation in northern Ontario. She lives on Lake Huron, one of North America’s Great Lakes — the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth.
It follows that growing up, Peltier always had access to clean water. But Peltier knows that others are not so lucky.
“We keep seeing and hearing that there’s First Nation communities that can’t drink their water, that it’s contaminated from pollution and pipelines breaking,” she told a reporter at CBC. “One day it really affected me and I actually cried about it.”
After this revelation, Peltier began to advocate for the universal right of clean drinking water — at just eight years old. She learned from her aunt, Josephine Mandamin, who also worked to protect Canada’s water. Mandamin walked the shores of the Great Lakes to advocate and raise awareness for water conservation.
Following those footsteps, Peltier has broken major ground for indigenous water rights. An official “water protector,” she fights for universal clean drinking water. Specifically, she advocates for safe waterways and drinking water for indigenous peoples in Canada and beyond.
“Water is one of the most sacred elements in our culture,” she said.
Peltier’s important strides
Even at such a young age, Peltier has already done a lot to raise awareness of water rights and ensure communities have access to safe drinking water. Notably, she met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016. She, in tears, insisted he do more to prevent Canadian communities from consuming unsafe water. The Prime Minister had endorsed several pipeline projects, endangering First Nation communities.
Because of these pipelines, over 100 indigenous communities received boil water advisories. These government issued advisories indicate that a community’s drinking water could be contaminated with pathogens and is not safe to drink without first boiling it.
Peltier has also brought her message to the international community.
In 2015, she attended the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden. And in 2017, she received a nomination for the Children’s International Peace Prize.
In 2018, Peltier traveled to the UN General Assembly in New York. There, she addressed the UN on water rights, as part of the commencement of the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development.
Peltier speaks at the United Nations
“Water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth,” she told the UN. “Our water should not be for sale. We all have a right to this water as we need it.”
Just last week, Peltier returned to the UN. This time, she spoke at the Global Landscapes Forum, which focuses on sustainability of land.
In her speech, she stressed the alarming number of indigenous communities lacking clean water, and how little has been done.
“All across these lands, we know somewhere where someone can’t drink the water,” she said.
“Why so many, and why have they gone without for so long?”