Only Canadian Up For International Children's Peace Prize
by Rhiannon Johnson,
'When I talk
to other youth, I tell them that you could do the work I'm doing,'
says Autumn Peltier
year old Autumn from Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve, has been
recognized as a water protector. She is youth advocate for
clean and sacred waters has been nominated for the International
Children's Peace Prize. (Photo taken by Linda Roy)
The International Children's Peace Prize is awarded annually
to an inspirational child who has has made a difference in improving
the lives of children worldwide. The prize, which is platform for
children to express and promote their ideas, was launched during
the 2005 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.
Her mother, Stephanie Peltier, was approached by Wikwemikong
Youth worker Natalie Neganigijig, who brought the International
Children's Peace Prize to her attention and suggested that Peltier
Autumn took part in a cultural camp in her community in 2015,
which focused on teaching youth about the land and team building.
Through the camp, she was invited to travel to the Children's Climate
Conference in Sweden, which brought together 64 children from 32
different countries to create a communique of the children's demands
to the leaders of the world, that would be delivered to the 2015
United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
Peltier, 12, hands water bundle to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Autumn is flanked by AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and
AFN Elder Elmer Courchene
Upon returning to Canada, she was invited to the Assembly of
First Nations Annual General Assembly, where she delivered a speech
calling for action in protecting sacred waters.
"Autumn's speech is pretty touching to the heart because she's
connected to the land and her teachings. I try to preserve our language
and our ways with her so she can pass it on." Peltier said.
Both of Peltier's parents were survivors of the residential
school system, her father having attended a boarding facility while
her mother attended day school. She said her parents' experiences
impacted the way she has raised her three daughters.
"When I was younger I made it my mission to make sure I learn
everything and pass it down to my kids. It's true what they say
that your kids mirror you, they say you have to walk in a good way,
that's what my parents are always reminding me about," Peltier said.
Autumn's advocacy heads to Ottawa
In November of last year, Autumn issued a national call to action
to shut down all of the highways across the country for an hour
on Dec. 5, 2016 to bring awareness to water protection.
month later, she stood on the highway in Espanola, Ont. with
her mother and community members in an act of solidarity to
create awareness for Canadian waters, and also in support
of those protesting
at Standing Rock.
During this, Peltier received a phone call from Ontario Regional
Chief Isadore Day, inviting Autumn to Ottawa to gift Prime Minster
Justin Trudeau a water bundle. At her mother's urging, she accepted.
"While we were driving [to Ottawa] she was getting a little
upset," said Peltier. "She said, 'I don't understand why I have
to drive eight hours to give a present to the Prime Minister. How
come they don't ask an Indigenous child from that territory?'"
She used the drive to write a speech she hoped she would be
able to deliver. However, upon arrival, she only had the chance
to hand him the gift. It was during this exchange she became frustrated
and asked him to make a promise.
"I would like to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau carry on
with the promise he made with me, he told me he would protect the
water," said Autumn.
Autumn continues to spread her message about the importance
of protecting water to communities and youth.
"When I do talk to other youth, I always tell them that 'you
could do the work I'm doing," said Autumn.
"I like to share that water is really sacred. Water is life.
Mother Earth doesn't need us, we need her."
Autumn Peltier holds up a certificate marking her recent nomination
for an international peace prize. photo by Ireva Photography
Passion and strength
While Autumn has only just turned 13, her passion for advocacy
is strong, said her mother.
"She's got all of these messages that just come out of her --
she's a pretty serious little girl," said Peltier.
"A lot of people don't know how to take her, but when you get
to know her she's pretty funny and crazy. She does take her time
to be a little kid, but when she gets that look in her eye I can
tell something's brewing."
When she's at home in Wiikwemkoong Unceded territory, Autumn
likes to play outside with her dog or spend time drawing and writing.
But, she also takes the time to educate herself.
"I came in the door there two or three weeks ago and she said,
'Mom, you're not going to believe this. I've been sitting here for
four hours studying [Assembly of First Nations National Chief] Perry
Bellegarde's speeches," said Peltier.
Peltier said she is amazed at what her daughter has accomplished.
"I never could have imagined this," said Peltier. "She has no
idea how big it is."
Autumn said she's excited to hear the results of the Peace Prize
and also looks forward to continuing to share her message about
water with other communities.
The International Children's Peace Prize award ceremony will
take place on December 4th, 2017 in the Netherlands.
Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve, Ont. is on Manitoulin Island, southwest
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