Water protectors are activists, organizers, and cultural workers focused on the defense of the world's water and water systems. The water protector name, analysis and style of activism arose from Indigenous communities in North America during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which began with an encampment on LaDonna Brave Bull Allard’s land in April, 2016. Water protectors are distinguished from other forms of environmental activists by this philosophy and approach that is rooted in an Indigenous cultural perspective that sees water and the land as sacred.
Some Water Protectors say that the reasons for protection of water are older, more holistic, and integrated into a larger cultural and spiritual whole than in most modern forms of environmental activism which may be more based in seeing water and other extractive resources as commodities. For example, water walker Josephine Mandamin of the Anishinaabe has said that water is associated with Mother Earth and spoke of the responsibility of grandmothers to lead other women in praying for and protecting the water. After a prophecy from an elder, Mandamin led water walks, to pray and raise awareness, from 2000 until her death in 2019. Her peaceful actions inspired many to become water protectors.
Water protectors have been involved in actions against construction of multiple pipelines, as well as other projects by the fossil fuel industries, and resource extraction activities such as fracking that can lead to the contamination of water.
Actions have involved traditional direct actions like blockades on reserve lands and traditional territories to block corporations from engaging in resource extraction. Water and land protectors have also created resistance camps as a way to re-occupy and refuse to give away their traditional territories. Usually part of these encampments, when led by Indigenous people, is a strengthening of cultural ties and traditions, with inclusion of activities like language revitalization. 
The Dakota Access Pipeline
In May 2018 Mi'kmaq peoples in Nova Scotia blocked the Alton Gas company from extracting water from the Shubenacadie River for a natural gas project; the project was disrupting the natural balance between freshwater and seawater in the tidal region, and threatening the drinking water, fish and other water life of the region.
Trans Mountain Pipeline
Wet'suwet'en resistance camps
The Wet’suwet’en peoples have ongoing of resistance camps, including Unist’ot’en Camp and action against the construction of a Coastal GasLink pipeline and the heavily militarized RCMP, in Northern British Columbia.
Many water protectors are women. In many Native American and FNIM cultures, women are seen to have a strong connection to water, the moon, and the cycles of the tide as they are able to become pregnant and give birth. In Anishinaabe culture women perform ceremonies to honour water and water is considered to be alive and have a spirit.
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