Commons Charter Invitation

Out of our love for the Great Lakes and our responsibilities to future generations, we are calling for a renewed relationship with the Great Lakes. We are asking you to join us by adding your name and commitment to this transformative water governance agreement.

We are petitioning ourselves to unite across geography, ancestry, and issues about the future we want for these waters. Otherwise the Great Lakes will be destined to be:

  • An object of management, rather than a partner in mutual restoration

  • A measurable resource, rather than a revered source of life

  • A commodity divided by political borders, rather than a shared and equitable commons

Water is the first medicine and can heal our exploitive relationships with mother earth and each other. The impacts of pollution and privatization are symptoms of this broken relationship. When you endorse the Great Lakes Commons Charter Declaration you join a growing community united around a truly restorative vision and practice.

Drawing on the rich traditions within commons and Indigenous governance, this Declaration is coupled with a growing set of First Principles designed by Great Lakes communities as water protection guides. Together, these commitments braid unity and diversity throughout the watershed.

They also affirm a simple truth:

when we protect water as a shared and sacred commons --

we restore ourselves and our kinship across place and time.

What is the Commons Charter?


We want to spark broad and inclusive discussion about Great Lakes governance.


We want to collaboratively define and equitably organize the foundations for protecting the Great Lakes for at least the next 7 generations.


We want to elevate Indigenous self-determination, human rights to water, informed and participatory decision making, and the restorative power of water protection.

Photo by  Susan Gateley

Photo by Susan Gateley