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Autumn Peltier

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Autumn Peltier
Born (2004-09-27) September 27, 2004 (age 19)
NationalityWiikwemkong First Nation, Canadian
OccupationActivist for Indigenous rights
Years active2018–present
Known forWater advocacy, environmental activism, Indigenous rights
TitleChief Water Commissioner

Autumn Peltier (born September 27, 2004) is an Anishinaabe Indigenous rights advocate from the Wiikwemkong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. She was named Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation in 2019.[1] In 2018, at the age of thirteen, Peltier addressed world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on the issue of water protection.[2]

Early life[edit]

Peltier was born and raised Lake Huron on the largest groups of freshwater lakes on Earth. She comes from the territory of Wiikwemkong, a First Nations reserve. She attended St. Mother Teresa High School and currently lives in Ottawa.[3] Peltier grew up understanding the importance of water and the need to protect it. She began advocating for the universal right to clean drinking water at a very early age, raising awareness towards water rights and ensuring communities have access to clean, safe and reliable drinking water. By the age of eight, Peltier was attending water ceremonies on First Nation. At one particular ceremony in Serpent River First Nation in Ontario, she witnessed warning signs of "toxic" drinking water, caused by factors such as pipeline leaks and pollution.[3] When her mother informed her of the 20-year boil-water advisory in the community, Peltier was shocked.[4] This experience served as a catalyst for Peltier's work as a water protector, and she soon began partaking in water ceremonies across Ontario.[5]

While Peltier continues her work for the access of clean water concerning Indigenous peoples across the country of Canada, she is also the leading voice, advocate and activist for all Indigenous matters, including the history and on-going racism and inaccuracy of Indigenous people; missing and murdered Indigenous women and the access and support for "the children coming behind us" who she continues to voice; and the need better direction for what the land and ecosystem they will inherit. Much of her inspiration and early knowledge cMs from her great-aunt Josephine Mandamin, a well-known activist for clean water and the previous Chief Water Protector for the Aniishnabek Nation, a title awarded to Peltier after Mandamin's death in 2019.[6][7]

Positions on water conservation[edit]

Peltier's views on conservation justice are in line with traditional Indigenous perspectives[which?] and can be characterized as relational, which entails a kinship as well as an interdependent human relationship with nature and all its beings.[8] She says that:[3]

In my culture, my people believe that water is one of the most sacred elements. It's something we honour. It is a living organism. My people believe that when we're in the womb, we live in water for nine months and our mother carries us in the water. As a fetus, we learn our first two teachings: how to love the water and how to love our mother. As women, we're really connected to the water in a spiritual way. We believe that we're in ceremony for nine months when we carry a baby. Another way to look at it is that water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth, and Mother Earth is female.

— Autumn Peltier

Peltier is a strong believer in the role of women in water advocacy, explaining that the first two teachings all humans experience when in the womb are to love the water and to love one's mother.[3] Thus, according to Peltier, women are truly connected to water in a spiritual way, as the nine months of carrying a baby is believed to be a ceremony.[3]

Peltier also believes strongly in the power of young people to create change.[3] She supports the advocacy of other youth to collectively effect change, as youth will make future decisions for their countries.[3] She expressed frustration at how young people must "[pay] for the mistakes that older people made".[3] Despite this frustration, she describes feeling good about her own work and other young people stepping up to take action.[3] Peltier worked closely with the Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation to provide short-term water access relief to over 500 homes across First Nations communities (as of November 23, 2022). Their on-going partnership is considered to be one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts across First Nations Indigenous communities that is not supported nor at all funded by the Canadian Government.

One major facet of Peltier's work is her environmental justice activism. She has discussed the challenges of environmental racism against First Nations communities in Canada in the context of water rights.[5] Peltier has argued that the demands of Indigenous peoples in Canada are consistently ignored and minimized by virtue of their indigeneity.[5] Peltier has drawn attention to disparities in treatment of Indigenous people in Canada relative to non-indigenous Canadians, comparing the experience of First Nations citizens (who often face police brutality, political repression, and racism), with that of white Canadians living in remote communities, who are never denied access to water.[5]

Water advocacy and impact[edit]

At age 12, Peltier gained national and international notice at a 2016 meeting of the Assembly of First Nations when she presented Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a copper water pot and, although she did not have time to deliver her prepared speech, confronted Trudeau on his record on water protection and his support for pipelines.[9] She said:[3]

"I'm very unhappy with the choices you made and broken promises to my people...I don't think he should have made that promise, because now I'm going to hold him accountable."

— Autumn Peltier, 2016

Upon reflecting on the confrontation with Prime Minister Trudeau in a 2020 interview, Peltier recalled how she questioned how the public could trust Prime Minister Trudeau considering his lackluster environmental record, highlighting the hypocrisy of Trudeau's authorization of the construction of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline (which was preceded by a significant oil spill in British Columbia).[5]

Her act inspired the Assembly of First Nations to create the Niabi Odacidae fund.[9] Peltier further gained attention when she spoke at the Global Landscapes Forum in New York City in September 2018, where she addressed the United Nations and important decision-makers.[10] This conference also allowed Peltier to further spread awareness for her cause globally.[10] Peltier was also invited to speak at the United Nation Secretary-General's Climate Action Summit in New York, in 2018 and 2019.[11]

"We can't eat money or drink oil"

— Autumn Peltier, 2018

Peltier is active on various social media platforms and often is connected as a contributor across international broadcast networks and on-line platforms. She has over 200,000 followers across platforms, using them to spread awareness of indigenous inequalities and water advocacy issues,[10] receiving support from youth, politicians, and other activists. She has brought attention to the absence of clean drinking water in Indigenous communities in Canada.[7]

In April 2019, Peltier was named the chief water commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation.[12][13] This position was previously held by her great-aunt, Josephine Mandamin, who died in 2019.[10] At the time of her selection, current Anishinabek Nation Ground Council Chief Glen Hare explained that the decision was simple to make, as "Autumn has extensive nibi giikendaaswin (water knowledge). She has been bringing global attention to the water issues in our country for a few years now."[3] In her role as Chief Water Commissioner, Peltier represents 39 First Nations in Ontario and is responsible for relaying community concerns to the Anishinabek Council.[14]

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peltier spoke up about the increased importance of clean water access as a public health issue for First Nations communities, where outbreaks have been particularly severe.[15][16] Peltier believes that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic globally has paved a way for a response to the issue of the drinking water crisis for First Nations in Canada and is hopeful that change is possible.[4]

On September 29, 2022, the eve of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, Autumn Peltier's petition asking for clean water solutions was referenced in a Parliamentary House of Commons address and continues to break into conversations as the petition has over 112,000 signatures and growing.

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Top 3 Finalist for The 2022 International Children's Peace Prize
  • Nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize, 2017, 2018, 2019.[17][18][19][20]
  • Canadian Living Me to We Award Youth in Action under 12, 2017.[9]
  • Ontario Junior Citizens Award, Ontario Newspaper Association, 2017.[21]
  • Sovereign Medal of Exceptional Volunteerism, by Governor General of Canada and Lieutenant Governor Of Ontario, March 2017[22]
  • Ottawa Riverkeeper Award, 2018.[23]
  • Water Warrior Award at the Water Docs Film Festival in Toronto, 2019.[24]
  • Young Leader Award, Ontario Municipal Social Services Association Award, 2019.[25]
  • Named Top 30 under 30 in North America for Environmental Education making a difference, 2019.[26]
  • Named to the BBC 100 Women list for 2019.[27]
  • Named to Maclean's list of 20 to Watch in 2020.[28]
  • Named to Huffington Post's list of 15 Canadian Icons Who Stole our Hearts in 2019.[29]
  • Named to the Union of Concerned Scientists list of 2019 Science Defenders.[30]
  • Named as a Chatelaine 2019 Woman of the Year.[31]
  • "Planet in Focus" Rob Stewart Youth Eco-Hero, 2019.[10]
  • Feature in Short Documentary Film The Water Walker, 2020[3]
  • RevolutionHer Community Vision Youth Award, 2021[3]
  • Canada Walk of Fame, Community Hero Award, 2023[32]


  1. ^ "Autumn Peltier named chief water commissioner by Anishinabek Nation". CBC Radio Canada. CBC Radio Canada. April 25, 2019. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  2. ^ Kent, Melissa (March 22, 2018). "Canadian teen tells UN 'warrior up' to protect water". CBC Radio Canada. CBC Radio Canada. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Autumn Peltier | The Canadian Encyclopedia". www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "WATCH — Teen activist Autumn Peltier demands clean water for all". CBC Kids News. November 20, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Autumn Peltier and the fight for native Canadians' right to water". LifeGate. October 1, 2020. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  6. ^ "Meet Autumn Peltier, teen water warrior | CBC Radio". CBC. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  7. ^ a b haggert (September 29, 2020). "Water protection and youth activism with Autumn Peltier". Canadian Geographic. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  8. ^ Whyte, Kyle (2021). Indigenous Environmental Justice: Anti-Colonial Action Through Kinship. New York: Routledge. pp. 266–278. ISBN 978-0-367-13992-6.
  9. ^ a b c Staff, Expositor (March 27, 2018). "Autumn Peltier: wiikwemkoong's, Island's voice at the UN". Manitoulin Expositor. Archived from the original on December 20, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Inspirational Indigenous individuals: Water advocate Autumn Peltier - Toronto | Globalnews.ca". Global News. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  11. ^ "Autumn Peltier going to the United Nations to share her message about water". anishinabeknews.ca. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  12. ^ "Autumn Peltier named chief water commissioner by Anishinabek Nation". Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). April 25, 2019. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  13. ^ Erskine, Michael (May 1, 2019). "14-year-old Autumn Peltier chosen UOI's new Water Commissioner". Manitoulin Expositor. Archived from the original on August 6, 2020. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  14. ^ "8 Questions for Autumn Peltier". Time for Kids. April 9, 2021. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  15. ^ "Clean water for First Nations critical during pandemic: Activists". thesudburystar. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  16. ^ "COVID-19 is hitting First Nations in Western Canada especially hard | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  17. ^ "Teen who scolded Trudeau to address UN". BBC News. December 31, 2017. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  18. ^ Johnson, Rhiannon (October 5, 2017). "Anishinaabe teen only Canadian up for International Children's Peace Prize". CBC News. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  19. ^ "Manitoulin Island 'water warrior' Autumn Peltier nominated for international honour". Sudbury.com. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  20. ^ Erskine, Michael (September 18, 2019). "Young People's Peace Prize". Manitoulin Expositor. Archived from the original on December 7, 2019. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  21. ^ "Ontario Junior Citizen Awards". www.ocna.org. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  22. ^ "Water Warrior Award". Water Docs. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  23. ^ "Ottawa Riverkeeper Gala rides wave of success to raise record high of $270K | Ottawa Business Journal". obj.ca. Archived from the original on February 28, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  24. ^ "'Water is alive': Autumn Peltier receives Water Warrior Award". CBC Radio. March 31, 2019. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  25. ^ "Young Leader Award - Ontario Municipal Social Services Association". omssa.com. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  26. ^ "Nominate or Apply to EE 30 Under 30". NAAEE. June 24, 2016. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  27. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2019: Who is on the list this year?". October 16, 2019. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  28. ^ "20 people to watch in 2020 - Macleans.ca". www.macleans.ca. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  29. ^ "15 Canadian Icons Who Stole Our Hearts in 2019". HuffPost Canada. December 31, 2019. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  30. ^ "2019 UCS Science Defenders | Union of Concerned Scientists". www.ucsusa.org. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  31. ^ "Autumn Peltier: Woman of the Year 2019 | Chatelaine". www.chatelaine.com. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  32. ^ "Community Hero Program – Canada's Walk of Fame Community Hero Program". Retrieved December 11, 2023.