Water is life and it has a spirit

“We are always in relationship with water. From before we are conceived, through birth, in our everyday lives and even into our next life. Water is everything. We have a responsibility to uphold that sacred relationship.”

Projects (current and past)


(current and past)

Decolonizing Water Governance

Our goal is to support Indigenous-led community-based law and policy development that is rooted in Indigenous laws and governance.


This project is funded through a SSHRC Partnership Grant (2016-2023)

Nibi Declaration (Grand Council Treaty #3)

The Nibi Declaration is about respect, love, and our sacred relationship with nibi and the life that it brings. It is based on Gitiizii m’inaanik teachings about nibi, aki/lands, other elements (including air and wind) and all of creation. This knowledge will be preserved and shared through the Nibi Declaration with our youth and future generations. Anishinaabe-Ikwewag (women) have a sacred responsibility to nibi and should be included in all decision-making around nibi. The development and ratification of the Nibi Declaration will ensure that Treaty #3 Anishinaabe nibi inaakonigewin (water law principles) are recorded and formally recognized in governance processes. This declaration will guide citizens of Treaty#3 in their relationship with nibi so that they can take action individually and collectively to help ensure healthy, living nibi for all of creation.



This project is funded as part of the Decolonizing Water grant, a SSHRC funded Partnership Grant (2016-2023) and a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant (2018 – 2019)

Anishinaabe nibi inaakonigewin

Since 2013, I have led the Anishinaabe nibi inaakonigewin research project in which I work with a Faculty of Anishinaabe Elders (named as faculty to reflect their important teaching and leadership role) to better understand Anishinaabe legal principles relating to water. In 2014, I published a report entitled “Anishinaabe nibi inaakonigewin, Report on Elders Gathering” for the Centre for Human Rights Research. The gathering still continues, as a knowledge dissemination activity and is organized and supported by community-based organizations. Video and audio footage was taken for a film on nibi/water and further publications relating to this research are anticipated, including a children’s/family book about our sacred relationships with water. This research has formed the basis for continued research on Anishinaabe water law and policy.

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This project was funded through a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant on Clean Water for First Nations at the Centre for Human Rights Research, University of Manitoba (2013-2016)

Anishinaabe innakonigewin onje biimaadiziwin: living Anishinaabe water law in context

This research will probe the underlying concepts of legal agency of non-human beings (what we consider to be nikaanagana “all our relations” in Anishinaabe law) and explore mechanisms for recognizing and enacting responsibility to those beings. Accompanying this research are ethical, ontological, epistemological and methodological considerations.


This project is funded by the Ontario Early Researcher Awards Program (2019-2024)

Sacred Responsibilities to Water: Indigenous Knowledge Exchange (Canada-Colombia)

The Canada-Colombia water project surveys the roles and responsibilities that members of Indigenous nations located in three regions of Canada (Manitoba and NW Ontario) and three regions in Colombia (la Guajira, Sierra Nevada and Choco) have in relation to water, and how others (including allies) can support the exercise of those responsibilities. The project works towards strengthening Indigenous water governance and serves to facilitate a more robust understanding of water’s legal agency and the corresponding and complementary political agency of Indigenous nations in navigating their relationships with water. In order to achieve this, the project will assemble Indigenous peoples from Canada and Colombia to exchange knowledge, practices, customs, ceremonies and relationships with water; enhance knowledge transmission within their own nations by engaging their nations and affected communities in the project (including the gatherings and other opportunities for discussion prior to and after the international exchanges); foster international Indigenous solidarity; and share information about Indigenous perspectives on water and spirit through a multi-lingual film with an international (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) audience.

This project is funded through a New Frontiers in Research Fund (2020-2023) and through a Partnership Development of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (2020-2022) 

Media Art

Nibi Declaration

How UNDRIP Recognizes the Sacred Relationship with Nibi (Water)

For Centre for International Governance Innovation, 20 June 2019


Navigating Our Ongoing Sacred Legal Relationship with Nibi (Water)

In J. Borrows, L. Chartrand, O. Fitzgerald and R Schwartz (eds), Braiding Legal Orders: Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

(Centre for International Governance Innovation, 2019) pp.101-110

Anishinaabe nibi inaakonigewin, Report on Elders Gathering

(Winnipeg: Centre for Human Rights Research, 2014), 50 pp.

Nibi onje biimaadiiziiwin in Anishinaabe law, water is life

In Water Canada Magazine 

17:2, 2017, pp. 16-18.

Giving and Receiving Life from Anishinaabe Nibi Inaakonigewin (Our Water Law) Research

In J. Thorpe, S. Rutherford and A. Sandberg, Methodological Challenges in Nature-Culture and Environmental History Research

(Routledge, 2017) pp. 105-119.


Water and Legal Personhood

Keynote address delivered at the University of Windsor’s Water Symposium

(Windsor ON, 13 March 2020)

Nibi inaakonigewin, legal personhood and rights of nature

Anishinaabe perspectives delivered at the Manoomin Gathering, University of Minnesota, White Earth Nation

Mahnomen Minnesota USA, 13-15 October 2019

Building Water Governance: Treaty #3 Anishinaabeg and the Journey Towards the Manito Waabo (Nibi/Water)

Declaration delivered at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Conference at the University of Waikato

Aotearoa New Zealand, 29 June 2019.

Nibi - Water Gatherings and Land Based Learning

Delivered at the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Eighth Gathering

Sydney Australia, 26-29 November 2018.

Décolonizer nos relations avec nibi (l’eau): la recherche  Communautaire Ansihinaabe, les responsabilités normatives et la reconnaissance de nibi

Delivered at the Maamwizing Conference Indigenous Research Methods

Sudbury ON, 15-17 November 2018.