Autumn Peltier, an Anishinaabe teen from Wikwemikong First Nation, has been nominated for the Children’s Peace prize, making her the only Canadian in the running for the prestigious prize, according to CTV News. Peltier has been working as an activist for clean water since she was eight years old, and her relationship to the element is deeply personal.
“When I think about how polluted the water is already, I think of future generations and my grandchildren and their grandchildren. Will they even have clean drinking water?” Peltier told CTV Montreal. “Water is alive and has a spirit, and like water is so sacred.”
In December 2016, Peltier briefly met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to talk to him about oil pipelines polluting water systems in the country. It was an emotional encounter and powerful to watch.
“I said I’m very unhappy with the choices you’ve made, and he said, ‘I understand that,’” Peltier explained. “And then I started crying … and all I got to say after that was 'the pipelines' and then he said, ‘I will protect the water.’”
In the interview below, Peltier says she thinks it's important to be public with her advocacy because it will inspire other young people to start doing the same sorts of work.
Peltier was first inspired by her aunt, Josephine Mandamin, who received the Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2016. Global Citizen reports that the International Children's Peace Prize has been awarded to children making a difference in their communities since 2005, and there are 151 nominees this year. Peltier was recognized for her work in 2015, when she was invited to speak at the Children's Climate Conference in Sweden.
In November of last year, she released a call to action on behalf of Standing Rock and the protests going on against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Peltier encouraged people to shut down highways during a demonstration.
The winner of the peace prize will be announced December 4th. Peltier has said she's honored to be nominated, but her work is her primary focus.
“If we don’t speak up now, or advocate now, how worse is it going to be?” she said.