WIIKWEMKOONG—Autumn Peltier, an amazing 13-year-old Wiikwemkoong Anishinaabe-kwe has been proving just how effective a passionate heart steeled with courage can be in making changes in the world. For much of her short life, Autumn has been crisscrossing the globe, engaged in a whirlwind tour of speaking engagements where she delivers and impassioned defence of fresh water, the lifeblood of humanity and a precious resource she notes to which too many Indigenous communities around the world, and here at home in Canada and Ontario, do not have access.
Autumn was nominated for the Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award by Anishinaabe Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee. She travelled to the 54th floor of the TD Tower in Toronto recently where Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell presented her with the award.
“We are just ecstatic that Autumn is getting the recognition she so richy deserves,” Said Grand Council Chief Madahbee. “She’s doing great things at the local, national and international level.”
“She was really nice,” said Autumn of the Lieutenant Governor. “She basically told me that she was proud of me and to keep on doing what I am doing.”
Autumn has been meeting many famous people in her travels and speaking engagements, and when asked who has made the biggest impression on her, she hardly hesitates. “Wab Kinew,” she said. “I had a sit down lunch with him and he told me how I could make improvements.” That would be Wabanakwut Kinew MLA, better known as Wab Kinew, who has gone on from being an author, CBC host and celebrity and now the leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
Mr. Kinew gave Autumn tips on how she could improve her speaking style and delivery. Mr. Kinew is one of the country’s most engaging and accomplished public speakers and communicators. Those tips will be coming in very handy, Autumn is due to address the United Nations this week.
Asked what message she will bring to that august body, Autumn replies with a confidence that belies her years. “Basically I will bring the message that there are many First Nations that can’t drink their water,” she said. “The United Nations made a 10-year commitment to protect global drinking water, I will hold them accountable for what they have promised.”
Autumn wears her regalia while she speaks and there is a reason for that. “When I wear my regalia I am making a statement as an Anishinaabe-kwe, I am there representing our people and our culture.”
Autumn can’t tell you how many speaking engagements she has had up to now. “I can tell you it is more than I can count,” she laughs.
As to what her classmates think of her hard won fame? “They are totally supportive of the work I am doing,” she said. More speaking engagements stretch out before her in the coming months, and most likely years, but Autumn is determined to bring her message of protecting the world’s fresh water supplies and her people’s access to it to as many audiences as possible. She is Manitoulin Island’s contribution to the outstanding youth of our province and our country and The Expositor and the Ontario Community Newspaper Association is honoured to have been able to be part of recognizing her efforts as an Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year for 2018.