The making of a Great Lakes Commons


The Great Lakes Commons is a grassroots effort to establish the Great Lakes as a thriving, living commons — shared and sacred waters that we all protect in perpetuity. The Great Lakes Commons works to:

Awaken & Restore our relationship to these incredible waters.

Activate a spirit of responsibility and belonging in the bioregion.

Establish stewardship and governance that enables communities to protect these waters forever.


A Transformative Approach

We believe there is hope in the wisdom and practice of commons and Indigenous governance. Both are long-standing traditions, distinct yet each embodying a kindred attention to: 

  • care for the water

  • shared responsibility

  • equitable and sustainable use

  • a multi-generational perspective

  • the integrity of the ecosystem

  • participatory decision making

While this may feel a long way from the way we govern the Lakes now, these commitments exist in our histories and cultures, our family and faith traditions, our public trust laws and many of our community practices. They reflect both scientific realities and our personal values about the significance of the Great Lakes. 

Support our Great Lakes Commons Charter to build on the best of traditions and build momentum for the Great Lakes to be lived and governed as a shared and sacred commons.

Take Action

The Great Lakes can only be a commons when people commit to being a ‘commoner’ — a person who works collaboratively to protect and enhance all that we inherit, share, and pass on. 

There is no blueprint for making a Great Lakes Commons, but we believe the following:

  • We are among millions of people who care and want to contribute more protecting the lakes.

  • We can learn from and support long standing efforts by Indigenous communities to care for and protect the Great Lakes and their tributaries.

  • We are overwhelmed with the size and scope of threats to the Great Lakes and we need new social, political, legal, and cultural agreements.

  • We have a diversity of communication tools to learn and organize with and that also multiply our collective voices.

  • We need a diversity of people and teachings to show us how to live sustainably.