To celebrate World Water Day in 2018, Autumn Peltier gave a heartfelt address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  

“Now is the time to warrior-up and empower each other to take a stand for our planet,” said Peltier, who was 13 years old at the time and stood on a stool so that she could reach the microphone. 

Autumn Peltier Peltier grew up in Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island and continues to travel the international stage speaking about Indigenous rights, inclusion, representation and collaboration all while inspiring the next generation. 

Today, the Water Institute at the University of Waterloo is honoured to welcome Peltier for its annual World Water Day celebration. The event features a screening of the documentary, The Water Walker, and a Circle Talk with Peltier to explore how youth can shape the future. 

An afternoon session will feature a panel entitled, Securing Canada’s Water Future, which will explore the University’s legacy in developing approaches and tools for sustainable water management under the $78 million pan-Canadian Global Water Futures program. 

The day will also showcase how Waterloo students are responding to global water challenges with purpose-driven research.  

A journey of inspiring activism 

Peltier made headlines early in her journey when she admonished Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at an Assembly of First Nations event, for his failure to enact policies that preserve clean water and the choices he had made for her people. He replied: “I will protect the water,” a promise that she holds him accountable for. 

She's been a featured speaker at The World Economic Forum sharing the stage with Greta Thundberg, is a regular guest speaker at The United Nations, has been shortlisted for the International Children's Peace Prize three times and in 2022 was runner-up for International Children’s Peace Prize with the Nobel Peace Prize committee.  

Amongst many accolades, she’s been featured on the front cover of Macleans in “Top 50 Canadians”, as well as ELLE in their 2022 release of “100 Global Woman changing the world” and most recently inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2023. 

In April 2019, Peltier was appointed chief water commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation. She took over the role after her great aunt Josephine Mandamin, known as “Grandmother Water Walker”, passed away. Grandmother Water Walker was a well-respected water advocate, who starting in 2003, walked more than 17,000 km around the shoreline of the Great Lakes raising awareness and praying for the water. 

Peltier started doing advocacy work alongside her aunt as Mandamin's health deteriorated. “She was the one woman who inspired me to do this work. If there was anyone who knew what prayers can do and what real commitment was, it was her. I’m honoured every day for the teachings she shared with me and the encouragement she gave me to keep going,” Peltier said. 

In 2020, Seeing Red Media Inc., who specializes in amplifying the voices of Indigenous storytellers, produced The Water Walker, a short documentary tracing Peltier’s roots, passion, and perseverance. Released by HBO Canada, it follows her journey as she garners momentum and influence as a young Indigenous global leader and water activist. 

“As she stood in cold and ice and in heat and rain, around each bend of the lake she thanked the water. At each puddle and stream, she asked the water for help. Soon the people started to join in, and the water started to become clean.” (The Water Walker voiced by Oscar-nominated Indigenous Actor Graham Greene) 

As a designated “water protector”, Peltier continues to advocate for access to clean drinking water in Indigenous communities and has been empowering young people to protect the environment.  

“A lot of youth are becoming activists. We’re realizing what kind of future the adults today are giving us for tomorrow.”  

“I strongly encourage the youth to stand up because we are the future leaders and we are the people that will be making decisions for our country.”  

Visit the World Water Day website for more information on this event. 

About the Water Institute 

Ranked among the top water research institutions in the world, the Water Institute is a leader in water research and education.