As of May 31st, 2010, there were 114 First Nations communities (link to Health Canada Updates) across Canada under a Drinking Water Advisory – some for longer than a decade. Drinking water advisories include boil water advisories and “do not drink” orders.
Our governments, federal and provincial, need to stop putting profit before people and work WITH our First Nations leaders and get safe water flowing into glasses. Water is essential to life, and is enshrined in two human rights treaties that recognize the inherent right to water. (http://www.righttowater.info/code/no15_3.asp)
Why do some of our our First Nation communities live in 3rd world conditions, without water and sanitation infrastructure? Water is life giving, like air, not a luxury item or commodity to be bought or sold. Why is the water they have unfit to drink? Why is there such a high majority of our communities without safe drinking water? 1 in 6 of our communities nationally goes without; in Ontario that figure is over 30% with unsafe water. Those are ridiculously high numbers. It’s a shame and an embarrassment to have stats like this in Canada.
Participation in the Empty Glass for Water campaign involves two actions:
1 – Glass Action
We need to show the Prime Minister the numbers of people that go without this right to life.I chose the Prime Minister because of the Indian Act we live with. The responsibilities of each government (federal, provincial, First Nations) are purposely complicated in my opinion; and the people paying for this are the children, women, elders and men in our communities. New legislation has been proposed, but there are no guarantees the resources will be there to meet the new rules? I hope that through this website we can learn together, and make sense of it all.
In the meantime, please join me in sending an empty glass for water to parliament hill; an empty glass for every person in the over 100 First Nation communities that are currently not being heard… let the empty glass speak for them, and stand for them in the Prime Ministers office.
Mail your EMPTY GLASS FOR WATER to:
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
(Sample Letter to send with your Glass)
Prime Minister Harper,
Access to clean, safe water is essential to life. Yet, many of our First Nation communities can’t go to a tap and get a glass of water.
The Chiefs of Ontario have declared that decision-making processes related to the use and care of waters is a right maintained by First Nations and was not handed over with the making of treaties. I encourage the government of Canada to immediately begin working WITH our leaders and the provinces to provide resources to high-risk communities to implement their plans to provide safe water.
Bill S-11 provides no guarantees that drinking water infrastructure will be improved in our communities.
This glass is to remind you that a person is on the other end, waiting to turn on their tap, pour a safe glass of water, and drink it without fear.
(Name & Address)
2 – Greet, Pray, Semaa
The campaign started with the Glass Action; but as time went on, and the more I learned I felt that spirit needed to be added to the work that we were doing. My teacher, Professor Eddie Benton-Banai, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, told us in our classroom that for our actions to be lasting and balanced, spirit must be a part of them.
I went to speak to two respected water women in our community. Josephine Mandamin, a Mide Nokomis (Grandmother), and a Mother Earth Water Walker; and Dorene Day, a Mide Kwe Waterline Woman. That is the day that it was driven home to me that all women must pick up the work of protecting the water, and greet the water, and sing to the water, and leave tobacco at the water.
I also had a dream that women internationally are, and more and more, will be doing this. It was shown to me that when we do this, the water dances.
While at a full moon ceremony, I remember Nokomis saying that women all over the world gather for full moon ceremonies. I thought it would be wonderful to see all the places in the world that women have greeted, prayed and left semaa, tobacco, coca, or other traditional medicine for the water. So, after you go to a body of water, (lake, river, stream, waterfall, creek, any water) and show it your love, thanks and respect, please come back to this website, email me the longitude and latitude of the body of water, so I can locate it on the google earth map, and I will drop a virtual leaf on the ceremony tracker map.
If you want to sing to the water, the Nibi (water) song is beautiful and easy to learn. People attending water conferences and meetings have all stood up, faced the water and belted out this song. It’s powerful. Please feel free to do the same at your next conference! Let us know about it on the facebook page, or send me an email. Chi miigwech to Dorene and her grandson Mashkoonce Day for bringing us this beautiful water ballad. It can be found under the Multimedia tab, Campaign Songs.
We have to show our appreciation for all bodies of water, and this will help us in our work. It will be encouraging to see all the leaves of thanks falling on the water. You are also encouraged to post a note on the facebook group: Empty Glass for Water, and let us know when and where you performed your humble or elaborate petition for the water. Let’s learn from each other and encourage each other. Please let your friends in far off lands know about this project.
Watch this footage, and learn from Nokomis, how we can show our respect for the water.
Organizations Take Action
- put the word out to mail in glasses & register them here at the website
- fund the mailing of glasses for your group, a box of 8 or 10 glasses is far cheaper to mail than 1 glass; or arrange to hand-deliver them to the Prime Minister; or ask your local MP if s/he will hand-deliver them
- have prominent people in your organization i.e. the president or chapters, send in a letter (your letterhead) with a glass/es to the Prime Minister of Canada, and a provincial premier.
- ask us to link you to our website, join our facebook group, join the Empty Glass for Water youtube channel and suggest water films, and view the ones already there.
- screen the ‘Glass Action’ film at your next event, or in your classroom
- play the Campaign Song at your next peaceful rally, or conference and flash the “W” sign for water; take photos and share them on our facebook group, or email them to us for the website
- sing the Nibi Song every day as you pass bodies of water on the way to work… it’s a song of gratitude, love and respect… sing it as a group at meetings and/or conferences facing in the direction of water
- put up posters in your offices or where people congregate (download from website, under multimedia tab)
- get the word out that if communities needing drinking water submit us audio or video we will put it up on the website to give them a voice (it could be work that needs to be done, and/or work that has been done for the water)
- if your organization does water work, send us your information, so we can link to you
- send us a message with longitude & latitude, location name and/or name of body of water, in your language with the english translation, where you “greet, pray, semaa” or did a large water ceremony/petition, and we will put a virtual sacred leaf on the world ceremony map on the website… a way to encourage each other, to see how much we’ve done and how much more we need to do
- please keep me aware of your activities so that i can gauge the campaigns effectiveness. I have posted our logo and logo text under Multimedia/Still Images so that you may use it in upcoming events i.e. if you are showing the film, or having a water event and asking people to mail in glasses. Please forward us a copy if you use it.
- offer us suggestions on how you can help spread the word.
My name is Cheryl Suggashie. I am originally from a Northern Ontario First Nation but have been residing off reserve most of my life. I currently reside in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, and attend Algoma University. I’m enrolled in the Law & Justice and Political Science program where I learned about the current water issue in all of our First Nations Communities across Canada. I could not believe there was no real law about safe drinking water in this country; I could not believe all of the “Politics” behind it. It saddens me. The First Nation I come from, I cannot even drink their water or I do get sick, which I discovered when I was a child. Even to this day, I still cannot stay long to visit, or I start to get flu-like symptoms.
Through education and networking I have managed to get proactive in First Nations issues; through classes, different committees, Shingwauk Anishinabe Students Association (SASA), as well as the Empty Glass for Water Campaign. Through SASA, we work with the Algoma University Students Union (AUSU) and we are also a part of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). The CFS has tremendously helped with the Empty Glass for Water Campaign by supporting the resolutions. With the help of SASA, AUSU, and the CFS we continue to support, and campaign to the people and politicians at all levels.
We all need clean fresh drinking water to live a healthy life, and it is a scary thought to think it won’t be around for long if we do not do anything about it, especially for our children…