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water is life By Wakinyan Skye LaPointe, Lemoine LaPointe, Thorne LaPointe, Laura Sioux Roberts

The growing global water crisis is prompting many world leaders and organizations to respond through a myriad of top-down approaches. Consequently, Indigenous Peoples are often left out of leading global forums and dialogues on water—yet they are often the first to be negatively impacted by escalating environmental issues. For the past two years, an international group of Indigenous Peoples, youth, and allies have responded to these pressing challenges by convening a global Indigenous water summit dedicated to the Indigenous right (also a human right) to water. The Mni Ki Wakan (Water is Sacred): World Indigenous Peoples Decade of Water Summit seeks to elevate the voices, perspectives, and solutions of Indigenous Peoples on water issues to unprecedented levels of global innovation.

Mni Ki Wakan is an intergenerational, Indigenous-led global water summit centered in the collective wisdom, goals, and actions of Indigenous Peoples, leading with the time-honored theme and mandate that water is sacred. In 2018, there were several developments that worked to strengthen the past year’s Summit. In efforts to uplift and expand the work accomplished by the Mni Ki Wakan participants during its first annual summit in 2017, 5 planning committee members brought the important work of this summit to the United Nations Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues 17 th Session (UNPFII) in April 2018. There, organizer Thorne LaPointe (Sicangu Lakota) announced Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit. After meeting with Indigenous Peoples, UN-Water, and UNESCO representatives to explore areas of future collaboration during the Permanent Forum, LaPointe extended an invitation for others on the UN floor to join them at the second annual convening of Mni Ki Wakan.

Held in St. Paul, MN, the second summit brought together members of the Innu people from the sub-Arctic region; a Maori delegation from New Zealand; members of Stoney Nakoda and Cree Nations from Canada; Chamorro of the Mariana Islands and Guam; an Indigenous delegation from Hawai’i; members from over 10 North American Tribal nations; and allies from Canada and the U.S. On the first two days, participants canoed the Okizu (Where the Waters Become One) riverway, a sacred Dakota ancestral river in Minnesota. In recognition of the Indigenous cultural water protocols of the region, each delegation made a traditional water offering according to their traditions in preparation for the following two days of sessions and interactive dialogue facilitated by Lemoine and Thorne LaPointe.

Sessions began on August 8 with a keynote address by 13-year-old Autumn Peltier (Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory). Earlier in the year, she spoke at the United Nations on World Water Day, March 22, 2018, calling on attendees to “warrior up.” In her keynote address at Mni Ki Wakan to Indigenous Peoples, youth, and allies from the world community, she said, “We need to act now, as the destruction to the planet is not waiting for us to catch up or stop. I am honored I am here today so we can gather our warriors together and make change happen and not just talk about it anymore…it is not even the people in this room that we must convince; we all know why we’re here. We are the warriors that are trying to create a change, and to push to be that voice for our Mother Earth.” Peltier’s powerful words resonated deeply with each Indigenous delegation and ally as they prepared to develop actionable innovations and transformative possibilities during the sessions throughout the day.

On August 9, keynote speaker, Ngaa Rauuira Puumanawawhiti, who provides policy and strategy advice through the Rights and Interests Unit to […]

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