Autumn Peltier, an Indigenous activist from the Anishinabek First Nation Canada, is one of those rare people who will never need to search for a purpose in life. She seemingly came out of the womb already set on her path: to advocate for people’s right to clean water, the rights of water itself, and the political recognition of the interdependency of the two.
“When you ask the question about why is the water so sacred, it’s not just because we need it, and nothing can survive without water,” says Peltier, who has been speaking publicly about water since a single-digit age. “It’s because for years and years our ancestors have passed on traditional oral knowledge that our water is alive, and our water has a spirit. Our first water teaching comes from within our own mother. We literally live in water for nine months, floating in that sacred water that gives us life.”
Now at the age of 15, Peltier has already spoken at the United Nations, serves as chief water commissioner for her First Nation, and has been nominated for a plethora of prestigious global activism and leadership awards. She carries herself with unwavering stoicism; uses scant but precise words; and travels with a support system comprising her mother and aunties, who fiercely guard the young leader from anything that could perturb her while manifesting her mission.
Peltier’s back problems are so much the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her acting beyond her age that it’s in fact refreshing to see her texting on her phone after leading a sacred water ceremony in a spiritual center in Brooklyn. For a moment, she seems like any other teenager.
But then, the next day, she gets behind a podium at the Global Landscapes Forum and reminds: “One day I will be an ancestor, and I want my descendants to know I used my voice so they can have a future.”