Camp Day 4- Reflection from Denise (youth, pseudonym) on Indigeneity and Water

For thousands of years, Indigenous communities in Canada have relied on and cherished water. Many Indigenous peoples believe that water is a sacred gift from Mother Earth and have always used it responsibly and resourcefully. They traveled by water, drank water, and gathered food from nearby lakes, rivers, and oceans. For them, water was a way of life, but today, they aren’t able to do the same. After colonization, the government took over the land and water along with it. Europeans brought the industrial revolution to Canada, but in doing so harmed much Indigenous land and water. For example, the dish with one spoon treaty between the Mississaugas, Annishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and settlers aims to protect and share the land, but with industrialization, it is clear that those promises have not been kept. A key example is the Hamilton Harbour, which previously belonged to the nearby Indigenous communities, but is now polluted and is unsafe for drinking, swimming, and the  wildlife. Had this treaty not been violated, the harbour could’ve been used to provide a space for traditions, and clean drinking water for nearby Indigenous communities. It may come as a shock to some, but Indigenous reserves as close to a 35 minute drive from Hamilton don’t have drinking water. On Six Nations reserve, the community invested 40 million dollars in a water treatment facility, but only 9 percent of it’s residents receive water from that facility. The other 12000 resident have been under a long term water boil advisory. Though the answer for this has never been clear, some blame the government’s ignorance on racism. Some people living off the reserve don’t want the government to build the infrastructure for people who aren’t taxpayers, but clean drinking water or not, Indigenous communities still honour their ancient traditions, even those surrounding water. An example of this could be Hamilton’s annual soaring spirit festival which is held by the Hamilton Harbour. As unfortunately ironic as it is, the participants take great pride in sharing their culture, regardless of what has been done to their land. The festival is open to all, Indigenous, ally, or other. They share their traditional songs, dances, and art all by the view of the pristine, polluted, Harbour. If there’s the ability to move on  like that, shouldn’t we be able to make amends and give back we took from them?I strongly believe that if we built an entire nation by disregarding their well-being, they deserve much more than what they currently have, and this is not an isolated opinion. Many Indigenous activists have fought for the protection of their waters, such as Autumn Peltier, who spoke at an UN conference on World Water Day. She says: “Our water deserves to be treated as human with human rights. We need to acknowledge our waters with personhood so we can protect our waters.” In conclusion, colonization has harmed many aspects of Indigenous people’s lives, including their connection and views of water, and we should all work together to continue our progress in honouring their culture and bettering their lives in every way we can. 

A photo Denise took while on her travels this week in Ottawa.