Above: Autumn Peltier advocates for First Nation rights before Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School students at a World Water Day event at the University of Waterloo.

World Water Day Event Provides Learners with Inspiration, Advocacy Around Water Rights


tudents from Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School had a unique opportunity recently to take part in learning around the importance of sustainable water management and stewardship, and hear from Autumn Peltier, Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation and activist on the international stage advocating for people's rights to clean, safe and reliable drinking water. 

The event took place at the University of Waterloo, and invited P.J. students from the school's Eco Club, Indigenous Student Association and educator Carolyn Lowes' Grade 11 chemistry class to attend the exclusive conference coinciding with World Water Day. 

"Hearing Autumn Peltier's experience advocating for First Nation rights was very moving, and it’s a little sad thinking that a girl at such a young age was put in a position that required huge responsibility and commitment, advocating for such a basic human right," said Brianna Lawrence, a Grade 11 student in attendance. "Nevertheless, she’s extremely inspirational, and I’m glad she has a strong voice to fight for what is right."

"I didn’t realize how complicated the water issue is, or how far reaching it is as well. This really opened my eyes."

Grade 11 Student


As a young person herself, Peltier's address to the audience was meant to explore how youth can shape the future, and inspire action for the better. 

"I didn’t realize how complicated the water issue is, or how far reaching it is as well," said another Grade 11 science student. "This really opened my eyes and I look forward to what else I can learn to help grow in my knowledge of this subject, to be a better Canadian and a better person.”

Students from P.J. were among a select group invited to the event in Waterloo, a connection that came from work the school has done with its Engineering department to further STEM learning. 

"Prior to attending the event, I wanted the students to know who Autumn is, her connection to the Water Walkers and the importance of speaking for the water," said Suzie Miller, Indigenous Education Teacher Consultant in Grand Erie, who conducted a talking circle to discuss Treaty relationships and the importance of Indigenous Ways of Knowing. "We must be guided by the voices of our children and youth, and we must understand our interconnected relationship with all of Creation."

Water holds profound spiritual significance within Indigenous culture, and is deeply interconnected with the land and life itself – a context learners were fortunate to have provided to them prior to attending. 

"Indigenous Peoples know, and have always known, that ‘water is life,'" added Miller. "Since water is the source of life, is it not all of our responsibilities to take care of it?”

Above: Students from Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School attend World Water Day event at the University of Waterloo.

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