Water is foundational to Indigenous people’s health and well being, and is an important part of Indigenous women’s realities. Indigenous women are natural life carriers and protectors of water. They recognize that water has Spirit and all life on Mother Earth is connected to the water.
Indigenous women and girls are negatively affected by the mistreatment of water from pollution, toxic substances and waste. They believe that water should be treated like a living being; life itself cannot be sustained if the water is polluted. NWAC advocates that Indigenous people act as a voice for the water—to protect it and care for the environment for future generations.
As of July 2019, there are 57 1 long-term and 37 2 short-term drinking water advisories affecting Indigenous communities in Canada. The Government of Canada has said it will end all boil water advisories by 2021, but while it has made some progress, this promise is not on track.3
Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) is a First Nations community in Ontario that is still dealing with the detrimental effects of mercury poisoning caused by a company dumping this metal into the English-Wabigoon River in the 1960s and 70s. Over 90% of Grassy Narrows residents have been negatively affected by the poisoning of their water. Both Indigenous men and women experience generational effects, with women passing the mercury poisoning on during pregnancy and breastfeeding.4