The winter event series “Stories and Sovereignty: Winter Tales of Water and Love”, was held from January to March 2019. In this event series, we drew stories as a way of thinking forward on questions of water and water governance, love and sovereignty. In Anishinaabek teachings, winter has traditionally been, and remains, a time for story-telling, reflection, restoration, and envisioning, towards the moment when the sap (sugar water) flows, and the ice breaks in the spring. Co-sponsored by the Indigenous Environmental Justice Project with Dr. Deborah McGregor (Osgoode Hall, York University), and the Great Lakes Water Works/Water Allies project: a de-colonial research hub within the University of Toronto geared toward researching and teaching about water and water issues within the Great Lakes community, directed by Dr. Bonnie McElhinny (Department of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies). The goal of this series was to contribute to conversations around water governance, gain exposure to a greater audience by creating knowledge mobilization, support further research on water and Indigenous perspectives and develop resources in relation to water and Indigenous legal traditions and knowledge.
Nibi Onje Biimaadiiziiwin: Water is Life
Nibi Onje Biimaadiiziiwin: Water is Life brought together three esteemed Indigenous scholars on January 15, 2019 for a panel on their stories, experiences and research, while fostering dialogue on Indigenous water law and concerns facing our waters and Indigenous communities today. We welcome Sue Chiblow of Garden River First Nation, a PhD student at York University’s Environmental Studies program, examining humanity’s relationship with water, Aimee Craft (Anishinaabe-Métis) who is assistant professor at the Faculty of Common law at the University of Ottawa, specializing in Anishinaabe and Canadian Aboriginal law and Deborah McGregor, a cross-appointed professor at York University from Osgoode Hall and the Faculty of Environmental Studies, whose research focuses on Indigenous knowledge systems and their various applications toward water, environmental governance and environmental justice. Together these scholars aim to create conversations to support further knowledge and research on water and Indigenous legal traditions.
Walking for the Water
On March 7, 2019, Kelsey Leonard (Shinnecock First Nation), scholar in water policy from McMaster University and water protector, gave a compelling presentation titled “Walking for the Water” at the faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Her presentation discussed her research and experience with water walkers and how they have created awareness of the importance of water globally. Kelsey advocates for Indigenous approaches for taking care of water.
Kelsey mentioned that Indigenous people have a kinship to water, they are not protestors or terrorists, they just want access to clean water to live and lead healthy lives and communities. Kelsey also said that “we need to be more like water…learn to forgive, adapt and not be so greedy…and that as people, we need to come to terms with the way water and colonialism’s ongoing legacy has fragmented relations with the natural world and territories”. Though Grandmother Josephine has passed, her work and vision will continue to make progress toward a shared path and future where water is protected. Kelsey reminds us that water issues are not just Indigenous issues and that it is important think about how we honour the earth and the relationship we have toward water and other non-human entities every day, not just earth day! She references International Water Advocate, Autumn Peltier who says “it is time to warrior up!” implicating that everyone has a role to fulfill in a little or big way, in regards to respecting and allowing water to fulfill its responsibilities. We do this by using our voices to speak for the water, participating in advocacy initiatives and by valuing Indigenous knowledge and epistemologies in working towards giving rights to water.