Water is the source of life – a sacred gift given by the Creator to heal and sustain all living beings.
Water is alive, and is life itself. All life on this earth depends on healthy water for survival. Water is a relation, we depend on it and it connects us to all other living things in the sacred web of life which we are a part of.
- KI Water Declaration, July 2011
The Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) are an Oji-Cree nation living in a remote area of northern Ontario. KI gained international attention in 2007 when they blocked juniour mining company Platinex from conducting exploration activities near the shores of Big Trout Lake - the core of their territory. The ensuing legal battle resulted in six KI leaders being sentatnced to six month jail terms but then released on appeal of the sentance.
Faced with ongoing pressures from the mining sector KI have developed a Water Declaration and Consultation Protocols to guide their dealings with Ontario, the Federal Government and private proponents of developments within their territory. The protocol requires both high-level strategic planning and consultation as well as project-specific consultation. The Protocol and Water Declaration were affirmed with 96% support of KI on July 6, 2011.
The protocols are based on KI's rights and their relationship to the land and are consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in their application of Free Prior Informed Consent:
in order to be able to exercise its rights, and honour its law and special relationship with the lands, KI requires the right to say no, and free, prior and informed consent in decision making in respect of how these lands are to be used or accessed by others;
Detail about the formation of consultation committees, review and decision making processes are included in the protocols and a high bar is set for acceptance of proposed projects:
KI will only support the third party use of our land and resources which is consistent with our vision for the land, respectful of our interests and rights in our traditional territory and, especially, which contributes to the cultural, economicand social sustainability of our people and our land.
The Water Declaration acknowledges the central place of water in all life and establishes a protected area for the whole of the Big Trout Lake watershed where no industrial development will be allowed. Outside the protected area a moratorium is in place until several outstanding issues are addressed and research needed for responsible development is completed. The KI territory that the declaration applies to is an extensive area of 13,025 km2.
The continued protection of the watershed by the community will enable us to maintain, restore, and rebuild our relationship to the land and water within our homeland which in turn will facilitate the healing of the cultural and spiritual impacts that occurred as a result of colonization within our homeland
The declaration also includes a call to action for KI's many supporters:
We call on our supporters to recognize and respect this declaration. We call on you to fulfill your duty as treaty people to take action, under our direction, to hold your governments accountable to respecting this declaration. Please stand with us as we assert and implement our Indigenous Laws and responsibilities. Together we can protect this sacred water for all people, all animals, all plants and all life.
As a long-standing supporter MiningWatch congratulates KI on its Consultation Protocols and Water Declaration. We commit to providing the assistance requested in holding governments accountable, and supporting KI's continued assertion of authority over their lands.
For the press release announcing the adoption of the protocols and declaration, the documents themselves and a supporter sign-on letter visit KI's Lands and Environment Department website.