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About the Mni Ki Wakan: Water Summit

The Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit is an indigenous-led initiative that is dedicated to the protection of water and human rights. Each year, it will convene indigenous peoples, youth, global actors, and allies from the international community at the host site designated by indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples, youth, and supporters will help co-create and design an indigenous-centered, youth-oriented, and decade-long water summit that reflects the diverse tributaries of values and confluences of indigenous wisdom and knowledge. Indigenous peoples will convene to envision what will happen at our summit for the future of water.

They will think upstream together in designing and emerging uniquely powerful and flexible experiences for the future of the water summit. Sharing their experience, expertise, and stories that will empower and contribute to a responsive summit structure now and in the future.

Mni Ki Wakan Global Community

Featured are co-conveners, indigenous advisors, and regional coordinators of the Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit. Together, we are building an intimate global community dedicated to the future of water. At the begining Nancy Bordeaux and Tiana LaPointe, Sicangu Lakota, announce Mni Ki Wakan Water Summit on May 19th, 2017, at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 16th Session. Both have been deeply involved in working with indigenous youth, women, and Mother Earth. Followed by Ta’Kaiya Blaney, internationally renowned singer and indigenous environmental activist from Tla A’min Nation, British Columbia, Canada. Ta’Kaiya has journeyed the world as a voice and protector of water.

Who Are Indigenous Peoples?

There are approximately 375 million indigenous peoples throughout the world living in 90 different countries and whose indigenous languages comprise 5,000 of the world’s 7,000 languages. Their cultural diversity has led to the conservation and protection of 80% of the world’s richest and rarest biodiversity. Today, one-fourth of the world’s land is owned and managed by indigenous peoples outside of Antarctica. When indigenous human rights are secured, the rate for ecological sustainability increases.

The question of who indigenous peoples are becomes clearer through the ‘working definition’ below developed by Jose R. Martinez Cobo, the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, in his famous Study on the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations:

“Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.

This historical continuity may consist of the continuation, for an extended period reaching into the present of one or more of the following factors:

  1. Occupation of ancestral lands, or at least of part of them;
  2. Common ancestry with the original occupants of these lands;
  3. Culture in general, or in specific manifestations (such as religion, living under a tribal system, membership of an indigenous community, dress, means of livelihood, lifestyle, etc.);
  4. Language (whether used as the only language, as mother-tongue, as the habitual means of communication at home or in the family, or as the main, preferred, habitual, general or normal language);
  5. Residence on certain parts of the country, or in certain regions of the world;
  6. Other relevant factors.

On an individual basis, an indigenous person is one who belongs to these indigenous populations through self-identification as indigenous (group consciousness) and is recognized and accepted by these populations as one of its members (acceptance by the group). This preserves for these communities the sovereign right and power to decide who belongs to them, without external interference.”

Indigenous peoples and youth throughout the world retain water and land ethics that continue to inform sustainable decision-making and solution-oriented approaches at all levels today. The Mni Ki Wakan: Water Summit taps into water as one of the greatest confluences for global transformation by emphasizing indigenous solution-oriented approaches, and upstream thinking.

Utilizing the collective knowledge, wisdom, and co-intelligence of indigenous peoples and youth, the Mni Ki Wakan Water Summit draws on time honored indigenous values of coming together in participatory collective conversations and interactive sessions. In the process, the Mni Ki Wakan Water Summit creates a flexible environment for the innovative and transformative thinking of indigenous peoples.

UN Indigenous Media Zone Live Broadcast 2018

With the Live Broadcast from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs moderated by Arnold Blackstar, a member of the Nêhiyawak (Cree) nation of the central prairies of Canada, from the community of Moosomin First Nation, Wakinyan LaPointe and Nancy Bordeaux (Ta Canku Luta Wi) present about the Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit (2017-2026) at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 17th Session, timely themed, “Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Rights to Lands, Territories, and Resources.” They are joined by Leanne Burney, UN Water, speaking on the Action Water Decade launched March 22, 2018, on World Water Day.

Thorne LaPointe Presents on Water on the UN Floor

In the presence of indigenous peoples and youth from various regions throughout the world, Thorne LaPointe presented a statement on the human right to water and the Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples’ Decade of Water Summit in the spirit of collective indigenous self-determination globally. Thorne calls for the recognition of water’s legal personality and greater coordination and elevation of indigenous peoples voices on water globally.

2017 Mni Ki Wakan featured in International Cultural Survival Magazine:

“Water is life. And our oceans are precious sources of that life. Indigenous Peoples have been sounding the alarm for decades, warning the world that a shift needs to happen towards a more sustainable and equitable future. Indigenous leaders speak on what is being done and the path forward to protect the world’s oceans.” Read more about how “Mni Ki Wakan Water Summit Builds A Movement”


Mni Ki Wakan: Four Sacred Directions Water Walk featured in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, Star Tribune:

People gathered for a prayer session, led by LeMoine LePointe and his sons Thorne LaPointe and Wakinyan LaPointe, on the south side of White Earth Lake (Lake Calhoun) for the second annual Mde Maka Ska: Four Sacred Directions Water Walk in Minneapolis, Minn., on July 31, 2017. This event, which celebrates Lake Bde Make Ska and was the kick off two the two day MNI KI WAKAN.” Read more about the “Mni Ki Wakan: Four Sacred Directions Water Walk”