In April 18, the MKW team addressed the global community at the United Nations outlining a number of water policy recommendations, and announced the 2023 Mni Ki Wakan Summit, stating:
"My relatives, today, we are here to voice the rights of water for future generations. We are here to remind the global community that water is not a resource, but a relative. We are here to call upon the global Indigenous community to join us in our fight for the future of water and all life. In 2016, our delegation announced the Mni Ki Wakan Indigenous Water Decade, otherwise known as MKW, a 10-year commitment to advancing Indigenous-led water rights, and water justice for all.
We remember the words of our ancestors: Mni Ki Wakan, Mni Ki Wiconi, Mni Ki Pejuta, Indigenous rallying cries for the rights of our sacred waters echoed in the Kyoto Water Declaration, at Standing Rock, at every river, lake, tributary, and ocean held sacred to Indigenous Peoples and youth. We remember the promise made by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
'Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied… waters and coastal seas… to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.'
Yet, water colonialism has reached an unprecedented level as colonial and Western water entities find themselves in dominant positions of power, wealth, and resources, controlling the global dialogue and trajectory of water futurities for all, while excluding Indigenous Peoples and youth at every level. Access to and the quality of water has significant impact on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples. In the final analysis, water will be the primary issue, impacting all life.
Our MKW team calls upon the global Indigenous community to join us at the 2023 Mni Ki Wakan Summit occurring August 15-17. We call upon the global community, member states, UN Water, water organizations, and all those whose futures depend on water, to: Dismantle water colonialism; Redirect resources and investment to Indigenous water initiatives; Institute equitable and just water policies in equal consultation and decision-making with Indigenous Peoples; Strengthen global collaboration with Indigenous water initiatives...."
The 2023 MKW Summit, themed, "Indigenous Water Justice, Global Collaboration, & Dismantling Water Colonialism," is timely as Indigenous water justice, innovation, and solution-oriented approaches ramp up, the Western water paradigm is diversifying its efforts to get ahead of global warming and climate change. Consequently, Indigenous communities are caught in environmental water inequities that are perpetuated during the process of Western water expansion across research, advocacy, science, sanitation, and human rights. Water colonialism began with water theft, disrupting the world's longest standing water ethics and relationships with sacred Indigenous waters, giving rise to prominent Western and colonial water entities that hold immense wealth, power, and resources while purporting to speak for 'all people.' Today, Indigenous peoples are largely excluded from the Western water paradigm and decision-making processes.
While some support is underway, many are seeking to dismantle water colonialism, and to restore Indigenous water governances that acknowledge the cultural and critical role Indigenous community members play in the future of their water rights. Indigenous youth are taking on water rights through research, education, and advocacy. Indigenous scholars are gathering information and conducting research to advance their Indigenous Nation's water rights in ways not previously thought of. Indigenous-led water organizations are surfacing now more than ever to answer the calls of the escalating water crisis, deploying water science, research, policy-development, advocacy, and community-driven initiatives. Indigenous water departments are developing water policies that account for and protect their water sources, identities, and cultures. There are now unprecedented opportunities awaiting a deeper dive into the collective power of Indigenous water protection and transformation, to connect critical players working across key facets and sectors of Indigenous water rights; to scale collaboration at local, national, and international levels, connecting previously unexplored sections and regions of the Indigenous world water map; to increase the circulation and confluence of Indigenous water solution-oriented approaches, tools, knowledge, and frameworks; to learn from each about how other Indigenous Peoples and youth are addressing water issues, as well as, opportunities.
MKW recognizes that many Indigenous Peoples once collectively held their water rights in common, honoring water as a relative, and we seek to help deepen ways to surface the important work that Indigenous water protectors and champions are carrying out. Recognizing those who seek to place the rights of water back into the hands of their communities, uplifting a collective Indigenous water sovereignty citizenry. We seek to identify and illuminate approaches to Indigenous water collaboration that hold the power to collectively address the escalating water issues many Native communities may be experiencing. We seek not only to co-innovate ways to respond to water issues, but to go beyond, and explore future possibilities through upstream collective thinking.
The 2023 MKW Summit
On August 15-17, the Mni Ki Wakan Summit will be held in Rapid City, South Dakota, United States, at the Holiday Inn conference space (505 North Fifth St, Rapid City, SD 57701). Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served on August 15-16. Breakfast will be served on August 17. There is no registration fee for community members. MKW recognizes the critical and imperative role Indigenous Peoples and youth hold in protecting their sacred waters.
Go to mnikiwakan.org to learn more.