Updated: Apr 25
One question I get as the CSJ Blue Community coordinator is "what actions can I take to live this water pledge?"
Many of the actions we can take to honour water as a human right, shared commons, and sacred gift are collective, yet the ways we describe who we are and where we are from can shift the broader water-agenda in profound ways.
Two additional elements of our Blue Community pledge are getting to know your watershed and learning/unlearning about the Indigenous water keepers in your area. This relationship to place and First peoples is often missing from water policy and advocacy, yet we can start today with a set of personal actions.
The next time you introduce yourself (one-on-one, at a meeting, or in a public event) try adding the name of the watershed you live in. This could be the name of the river, aquifer, or lake that you get your drinking water from or the waterbody that you feel most connected to. This is a great way to honour not only that waterbody for all 'she' provides, but a good way to learn about the waters surrounding you. Rather than just the name of the city or town you live in, try adding a water marker too. For instance:
My name is Paul Baines and today I'm writing to you from the Otonabee river watershed that ultimately empties into Lake Ontario.
Additionally, honouring the ongoing Indigenous care of this place as well as the ongoing benefits you receive as a non-Indigenous person helps ground and personalize some of the ongoing impacts of colonization. Some good information sources about the native lands and peoples of your area, try the Native Land website and the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada. You can always write to me with your location and I'll do my best to answer any of your questions. This workshop/post that I made might also interest you when considering Honouring the Lands & Waters. So adding this type of information to my introduction would include:
I live in Peterborough, known as Nogojiwanong by the Michi Saggig Nishnaabeg (Anishinaabe) who's traditional territory and homeland covers this entire area. These lands and waters continue to be settled by Canadians like me through the powers of the Williams Treaty and Canadian law. I am grateful to this place for all that she provides and I want my life here to heal the wounds of genocide and theft.
It might seem like a lot or rather sudden for those reading or hearing your introduction. Depending on the context, more or less can be shared, but think about the ripples of awareness and commitment with such an introduction.
While our political leaders continue to over-promise and under-perform on social and environment issues, re-writing how we introduce ourselves can shift both external and internal realities. The examples above are just one version. With these common intentions, the introduction needs to be meaningful and specific to you, so lots of variation is possible. Try it out.
Try adding watershed and place-based markers that connect you to place and on-going colonial relationships. Here are some more ways to use these markers:
add some personal text within your email signature
add something to a name label when at a conference
add something to an event program when describing the location
add something to your biography when talking at an event or describing yourself at the end of an article/letter/presentation
have a few words prepared for that age-old question "where are you from?"
What are some additional ways to incorporate place and First people's into your introductions?
It might take a bit of research and inner reflection, but this act of re-introductions is something we can all do without waiting for political and economic leaders to shift their actions. Add a comment with your thoughts, questions, or examples.
By Paul Baines