Report from 2018 Annual General Meeting of Wellington water Watchers

Wellington Water Watchers is pleased that Eryn Wise agreed to be the speaker at our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 21.

Eryn’s speech included specific challenges to Wellington Water Watchers. In our work we talk about protecting our water usually from private corporations, like Nestlé. Eryn reminded us that non-Indigenous people don’t own the water. She also told us of the heavy price that Indigenous peoples pay since countries, like Canada, have declared ownership and extracted resources from the land: 

“This land is not your land. This water is not your water. [Indigenous] people are not your people to control. And I want you to know in case you don’t, that pipelines are killing Indigenous people at an exponential rate…They do not care about our futures, because they do not want us to live. I want you all to leave here knowing that. It’s not a surprise to us that people don’t care about Indigenous people or people of colour because ‘not caring’ has been happening since people showed up.”

“Everyone is fighting Nestlé, everyone wants to protect our water, but you can’t really say ‘our water’ when it’s their future and they have had roots growing out of their feet for millennia. You are doing great and important work but it’s important to support Indigenous organizers”.

Eryn accurately pointed out that the crowd ‘in the room’ at our AGM did not include many Indigenous people or people of colour. The leadership and membership of Wellington Water Watchers is predominantly people who identify as white. There are not many people who participate in WWW activities that identify as Indigenous or as people of colour. 

Eryn tells us it's time to be more than allies but to be accomplices, to support Indigenous organizers, and to find ways to include more Indigenous people and people of colour in our membership and in our leadership:

“As a room full of people, mostly not of colour everyone here who is not Native or a person of colour should be thinking about their allyship and not only how you are going to be an ally but how you are going to be an accomplice because the time for allyship is passed. …. Holding up a sign or just attending a march is not enough.”

We agree.

We believe the impacts of climate change, including water insecurity, will have a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. We also recognize that pollution, extractive industries, waste management and other environmental hazards have  already impacted people of colour, people who are poor, and Indigenous peoples more than communities where white people are the majority.

We also believe that water has a special power to bring communities together towards the realization of environmental, social and climate justice.

In 2018, we began to commit the Wellington Water Watchers to become better allies with Indigenous peoples and racialized communities in water protection and the promotion of environmental justice.

We participated in several activities in the last year to develop a better understanding of water issues in Indigenous communities. We supported and participated in the following:

  • Sacred River Walk as part of the Two Rivers Festival
  • Two Row On The Grand
  • All Nations Grand River Water Walk
  • Community conversation led by Nancy Rowe, Mississauga of the New Credit
  • Community meeting of the “Indigenous Water Tools” research project, held at Six Nations
  • Meeting with the Six Nations Land and Development Committee to discuss shared issues regarding Nestlé
  • Six Nations Youth demonstration at Nestlé Waters Canada location
  • Inviting Eryn Wise to speak at AGM (Click here to watch her full presentation)

Our participation in these activities was intentional and intended to help us develop relationships and the understanding necessary to help us be good allies. We will continue these efforts and we invite you to help us plan and carry out the next steps. 

Here are some ideas we are thinking about for 2019:

  • Continue participation and support of the Two Row Paddle and the All Nations Grand River Walk planned
  • Continue to offer to be allies to people in Six Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit
  • Organize a series of public presentations/events led by Indigenous people
  • Offer discussion groups where people who are not Indigenous can share questions and experiences and make plans on how, as members of Wellington Water Watchers, we can become good allies and accomplices to Indigenous peoples
  • Organize book clubs or reading circles

You can share your thoughts with us and help develop a plan by clicking here and completing this short survey.

Wellington Water Watchers has also begun outreach to better understand water issues in racialized communities. We will have more to tell you about that soon.

Thank you for being on the journey to protect water with Wellington Water Watchers.