Seventeen-year-old Canadian indigenous rights activist and designated “water protector” Autumn Peltier is empowering young people to protect the environment. As the chief water commissioner for Anishinabek Nation, she has spent nearly half her life speaking about the importance of clean water to organizations including the United Nations and the World Economic Forum.
Peltier, who grew up in Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, first became aware of the need for water advocacy at just eight years old. When visiting a neighboring indigenous community, she discovered that they were unable to drink their tap water due to pollution. That kickstarted her career as an activist.
“I believe that no matter what race or color, (or) how rich poor we are, everybody deserves clean drinking water,” she says. “You don’t have to be indigenous to respect (water) or raise awareness for it.”
At 12 years old, Peltier made headlines for scolding Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau about his failure to enact policies that preserve clean water. Since then, she has spoken to world leaders at the UN General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit. She was also nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize three times.
“You wouldn’t generally think a kid or a young person would speak up about world 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 is elevating the central role of water in indigenous communities.