In 2003, Josephine Mandamin walked around Lake Superior carrying a pail of water. It was the first of many walks the Anishinaabe grandmother took to call for more action to protect clean water.
Autumn Peltier is Mandamin’s great niece and a member of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation.
“When we’re born as Anishinaabe people, we’re automatically given that role to protect the water and the land,” she says.
Sixteen-year-old Peltier has followed in her aunt’s footsteps as a water protector and climate activist.
“My auntie Josephine is one of my biggest role models and mentors,” she says.
Like her aunt, Peltier participates in water walks and speaks at events.
At 12 years old, she confronted Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his support for oil pipelines that she said threatened clean water. And at 14, she was named chief water commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation.
“As a chief water commissioner, I was given the role for advocating for First Nations communities around the Great Lakes,” Peltier says.
Peltier’s aunt previously held the position until she died in 2019.
“When she passed away, she told me to not stop doing the work that I was doing and not to give up,” Peltier says.
So she continues to protect the land and water of her people.