Autumn Peltier, a 17-year-old Canadian Indigenous rights activist and designated ‘Protector of Water’, empowers young people to protect the environment. As the Anishinabek Nation’s Chief Water Commissioner, she has spent nearly half her life speaking to organizations such as the United Nations and the World Economic Forum about the importance of clean water. .
Peltier, who grew up in the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, first became aware of the need to defend the water when he was just eight years old. During a visit to a nearby indigenous community, she discovered that they could not drink tap water due to pollution. This launched her career as an activist.
“I believe that no matter what race or color, (or) how poor we are, everyone deserves clean water,” she says. “You don’t have to be indigenous to respect (water) or raise awareness about it.”
At age 12, Peltier made headlines for berating Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his failure to enact policies that safeguard clean drinking water. Since then, she has addressed world leaders at the UN General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit. She has also been nominated three times for the International Children’s Peace Prize.
“You wouldn’t usually think that a child or young person would talk about global issues or political issues,” says Peltier. “That’s why it’s so much more powerful – because that’s how you know something is wrong.”
Watch the video above to find out how Peltier elevates the central role of water in Indigenous communities.