The Inspiration: When Autumn Peltier was 8 years old, she was visiting a community in Ontario, Canada, called Serpent River First Nation. (“First Nation” is a term used for indigenous communities in Canada.) When she went to the bathroom, she noticed warnings saying that the water wasn’t safe.
The community was under a boil water advisory: Their tap water was contaminated and needed to be boiled for at least a minute before they could drink it or even use it to brush their teeth. In Canada, many First Nation communities have been living with water advisories for decades.
Autumn, now 15, is a member of an indigenous community called Wikwemikong First Nation. She grew up with clean water, but it infuriated her to learn that many First Nation communities didn’t have access to something so basic and necessary, especially since Canada borders the Great Lakes, which contain 18 percent of the world’s fresh water. The Canadian government regulates most of the country’s water supply but not the water for First Nation communities. Problems with water treatment systems and pollution from toxic chemicals often make First Nations’ water supply unsafe.