From indigenous leaders in Canada to U.S. politicians, the call is on for attention to water and our use of it. On World Water Day March 22, both Assembly of First Nations and Arizona’s junior senator broached the subject.
“I am launching a yearlong conversation on domestic and international water issues,” wrote U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) in an opinion piece in the Arizona Republic. “This project will focus on bringing attention to water-security challenges with an eye toward identifying effective policies that could inform water-management decisions.”
The state’s 22 federally recognized tribes also are part of the dialogue, Flake said.
“Because we are home to 22 federally recognized American Indian tribes, we have also had the opportunity to work on mutually beneficial water settlements,” he wrote. “Our location along the border has enabled us to be a part of water treaty negotiations with Mexico. This diverse set of water challenges, and Arizona's know-how in addressing them, will serve as a valuable resource for the rest of the United States and the world.”
The sentiments are right in line with other calls for water awareness, most notably from the United Nations, which designated World Water Day in 1993. A group called unify.org has launched a yearlong initiative to get people to pay attention to water, and 12-year-old Sliammon First Nation activist, actress and singer Ta’Kaiya Blaney is a primary spokesperson.
Also in Canada, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) tied water and water rights to implementation of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Many First Nations continually face a lack of access to safe and adequate supplies of potable water for daily needs and sanitation purposes,” the AFN said in a statement. “Long term drinking water advisories continue to persist in many communities, affecting health outcomes for First Nations people and families. The AFN continues to advocate and support First Nations rights to safe water, adequate sanitation and to protect waters for today and for future generations.”
The AFN also highlighted its water declaration, adopted in 2013 at its General Assembly.
“We, the First Nations, were placed on this land by the Creator to live in harmony with nature and humankind,” the declaration states. “The Creator gave us our spiritual beliefs, languages and laws and cultures that teach us to respect, nurture and care for Mother Earth. Water is the lifeblood of the Earth, and we as First Nations recognize water as a sacred gift that connects all life.”