Unpacking Whiteness, Settler Colonialism, and Working Towards Acting in Better Allyship

Great Lakes Commons (GLC) is hosting a Living Great Lakes gathering at the Five Oaks Retreat Centre near Paris, Ontario, this October (11-13).

For white accomplices planning to or thinking about attending the gathering, GLC is organizing a two-hour online meet-up in September to unpack whiteness, settler colonialism, and the commons so as to teach each other how best to show up for this vital work on behalf of our human and nonhuman family. 

Relationship Status: Water Friendship workshop

On July 18th, GLC Education & Outreach Coordinator Paul Baines gave a workshop in Cambridge Ontario about our relationship with water. Based on the 2017 Water Friendship pilot project, this event was part of the Common Waters project. Common Waters is a community project that examines our relationship with water and provides a platform for us to discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time. It started with three reflections about how we think: We can not solve a problem with same kind of thinking that created it / We count and name what matters to us / If all you have is a hammer, then nails are what you go looking for.

Stories and Sovereignty: Winter Tales of Water and Love

The Indigenous Environmental Justice Project (York) and Great Lakes Waterworks/Water Allies (New College/University of Toronto) are pleased to announce a joint winter event series.  In these events, we draw on stories as a way of thinking forward on questions of water and water governance, love and sovereignty. In Anishinaabek teachings, winter has traditionally been, and remains, a time for story-telling, reflection, restoration, and envisioning, towards the moment when the sap (sugar water) flows, and the ice breaks in the spring.

Currency Commons: reimagining money to value water protection

There is no money to be made protecting water as the source of life. Financing Great Lakes care today comes through either altruistic charity or legislated compensation. Water restoration costs are a fractional expense for a pollution-based economic system. Advocating for a friendlier version of the current system denies its core impulses and interests. Let’s be honest -- degrading the living earth makes obscene amounts of money and defines our current story about “progress”. How can our collective and radical imaginations connect our desire for connecting money’s value with our values?

Journey for the Waters

Motion. As water flows through our lives, how does it move us? What e-motions are stirring when we witness the state of the Great Lakes?In 2016, from Mother’s Day to Thanksgiving, Great Lakes Commons rallied people across the waters to journey in unity. Walk, bike, paddle, sail, or surf to connect with the lakes and others who are becoming great ancestors -- guardians of the Great Lakes. In 2019, can you journey part of the Great Lakes this year and add motion to this ongoing movement?

Recognizing the Rights of the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes Commons Initiative emerged from a recognition that, despite decades of activism and effort on the part of Indigenous peoples and dedicated local activists, the health of the Lakes has not notably improved and the waters continue to suffer. It has become clear that a transformation of our relationship to these waters and of the region’s governance of water is key for enabling the sustainable protection of the Lakes.

Emergence #4: conditions to let things happen

We invited Edward George to this talk since he has also been reading Emergent Strategy and feels it has great potential for water protection. He was lifted up hearing people talk from all sides of the Great Lakes showing their care. As a young Anishinaabe man, he started his journey with the sacred water walks and paddling the Great Lakes. He has a close relationship with the Great Lakes and with many people across the region. He’s learned from the land, elders, and those doing the work.

Emergence #3: nine practices into a new future

After hosting 2 conversations this summer with our GLC community, this post explores 9 principles of Adrienne Maree Brown’s book “Emergent Strategies” as it applies to protecting the Great Lakes. Martin Urbach recently did the same, but from his position as a music teacher. So this post was inspired by Martin’s approach and uses the same 9 ES principles gathered from the book. Let’s inquire what these could mean for a Great Lakes Commons.

Emergence #2: grief, love, and the possibilities of belonging

On August 28th, we host our second conversation on how to adapt Adrienne Maree Brown’s book “Emergent Strategy” to building a Great Lakes Commons. A handful of us meet from different edges of the basin to share our thoughts. Over the next few months we’ll continue holding space for these ‘emergence’ conversations, since GLC is currently reviewing its role and focus in Great Lakes protection –- two related blog posts are the ones on mapping our movement and unsettling the commons.

Emergence: giving attention and intention to transformative change

This Great Lakes Commons initiative emerged from a confluence of political, emotional, social, and ethical forces that are constantly changing. But how is GLC changing? At the end of July, we invited some of our longest and more curious supporters to talk about what 'emergence' means to them and how GLC can change. The event was inspired by the book Emergent Strategy: shaping change, changing worlds, by Adrienne Maree Brown, since she has laid out many key principles and practices for looking at social movements through the lens of "emergence". 

Online Forum: strengthening a Great Lakes Commons

Nestlé's bottled water takings, the privatization of water infrastructure and access to clean affordable water impact Great Lakes communities and Indigenous rights. Residents, Indigenous representatives, and water groups came together in Flint, Michigan last September to oppose the commodification and privatization of water and unsettle water sovereignty.

Mapping the Movement: ways to organize our organizing

What if we could name and categorize our water protection work here in the Great Lakes as well as we can name and categorize the issues? Yes, naming the work of water protection.Let's look at a few frameworks that can hopefully bring clarity, alignment, and energy to our Great Lakes Commons movement. 

Unsettling the Commons: the tragedy of Indigenous erasure

From the start, Great Lakes Commons has been seeding a transformative approach to current water governance. Using the histories and frameworks from both 'commons' and 'Indigenous' sources, we continue to map how these principles and practices enrich our connection and protection with these waters. But there's always also been a critical tension between these sources. Craig Fortier's new book Unsettling the Commons: social movements within, against, and beyond settler colonialism helps us name and integrate this tension.

Collaborative Governance: who rules the waters?

In this age of endless easy petitions and staged town halls, surely we've reached the tipping point for public consultation and policy input. Rule makers want our opinion about stopping bottled water, burying nuclear waste, tar sands pipelines, micro-plastics, water shut offs, boil water advisories, nutrient overload, and the list goes on. But rather than being consulted by the rule makers, what if we organized better ways to set the rules ourselves?

Indigenous Led Water Protection: two examples to bring to the Great Lakes?

Water justice is not just about changing the distribution of water access and benefits, but access to the water governing rules too. The human right to water is a challenge globally and even here in the Great Lakes too. In recent years, the struggle for clean and affordable water has risen in Flint, Detroit, and in over 100 First Nations across Canada. This post presents 2 examples of how Indigenous nations are taking back some control over how the waters are governed. 

The Gift of Water

“There is a fish in me,” claimed the poet Carl Sandburg. John Muir said: “Rivers flow not past, but through us." Overly poetic? How about this: “We exist to advance the sources of creation and creativity. Refresh your mind and restore your body. Life. Water. Inspiration.” This message adorns a water bottle – “LIFE WTR” – bottled by PepsiCo and sold for $2 per liter. What runs through us if not “life water”? Our brains and hearts are 75% water. Water isn’t a luxury item. We can survive for only 3-5 days without water. Don’t try this at home.

Lighting a Fire in Flint: water groups unite for a Great Lakes Commons

Great Lakes Commons co-hosted a Water Summit in Flint this fall as part of a union of water organizations challenging Nestlé on its water bottling and calling an end the tap water crises in Flint, Detroit, and Indigenous nations. GLC hosted a workshop called "The Colonial Enclosure of Water" in the Great Lakes that showed several examples of how to re-centre Indigenous claims, perspectives, and rules for water governance. 

Water Friendship for Everyone: seed project report

Protected solely as a resource, water is threatened most by our collective denial that water is much more -- it is also the source of many vital relationships.The Water Friendship project aims to name these relationships, present their value and role in water protection, and offer concrete actions to guide water policy, curriculum, and advocacy. Additionally, uncovering lost connections to water can connect people across different cultures, professions, and locations.

Dispatches from the Wastelands: touring folk opera talks to commoners

3 field dispatches from the 2016 folk opera tour "The Wastelands" performed by Children of the Wild. Here we visit Lorain (Ohio) Fon-du-Lac (Minnesota) and the Straits of Mackinac (Michigan) to hear the voices of poets, elders, and musicians calling out for a renewed relationship with the lands and waters. Includes 3 short videos.