Autumn Peltier, a 13-year-old Wikwemikong girl who tearfully pleaded with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to protect the water is up for an international award.
Autumn Peltier’s name came to be known across the country after she presented Trudeau with a water bundle of a copper bowl, a red cloth, tobacco and a small copper cup during an Assembly of First Nations meeting in December 2016. During the gift presentation, Peltier told Trudeau she was “unhappy” with his decision to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline in British Columbia.
Now Peltier is up for the International Children’s Peace Prize, known as the Nobel Prize for children. She is the only child out of 169 nominees from Canada.
“When I found out that I was nominated for the award I was really excited and I am really excited to find out if I win or not,” said Peltier. “If I don’t win I am still really happy to be doing the work I am doing.”
Peltier has dedicated herself to campaigning for water protection. This past July she was in Regina during the AFN’s general assembly to sign a treaty against the expansion of Alberta’s bitumen fields.
“I like to speak for the water because the water doesn’t have a voice,” said Peltier. “If nobody speaks up what will the water and environment be like in 10 to 20 years? What if we don’t have clean drinking water anywhere? We would all die if we didn’t have clean drinking water.”
Peltier said she hopes others will join in her struggle to protect water around the world.
“The reason I advocate for this is to inspire people to come together and try and purify the water,” said Peltier.
She still remembers that day last December when she got her moment to speak directly to Trudeau. In an interview shortly after it happened Peltier described the encounter.
“When I went up there, I was standing with the Elder, listening to what he was saying and I was told to give the prime minister the water bundle,” Peltier said, at the time. “And I said something to him. I said, ‘I am very unhappy with the choices you’ve made.’ And he said, ‘I understand that.’ And I started crying and all I got to say after that was, ‘the pipelines.’”
Looking back, Peltier, who is from Wikwemikong, on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, said she didn’t know what she was going to tell the prime minister at the time and the words just tumbled out.
“When I went up to give him the gift I didn’t what I was going to do. I just had this feeling. I guess my spirit just wanted to say something while I was there and it was an opportunity to just say it,” said Peltier. “When I think about what I said I am just trying to help my people and help my environment and it makes me feel proud.”
The KidsRights organization will announce the winner of the prize Nov. 10.