Working on behalf of all waters involves more than collaboration and partnerships with Indigenous Peoples. It means restoring our relationships — to the land, to ourselves, and to each other. These ‘Right Relations’ turn our colonial worldviews inside out, helping to buffer their unjust power structures and perpetual harm. As Potawotami ecologist Robin Kimmerer puts it:
“It’s not the land which is broken, but our relationship to land. That’s the work of artists, storytellers, parents. We braid sweetgrass to come into right relationship.”
While ‘right relations’ is a concept settler organizations frequently use, we could not identify its original Indigenous source (let us know if you can!). Right relations is akin to the ‘all my relations’ philosophy held by many Indigenous cultures, where the interconnectedness of all beings centres our responsibility and reciprocity in relationships.
This framing resonates with us and our values at Our Living Waters. Over time, we will weave Right Relations into all that we do, guided by our ongoing journeys of (un)learning and Indigenous partners along the way.
OLW’s position in Right Relations:
Let’s face it–our Network is pretty ‘white’ and educated by ‘Western worldview’. Lots of work is being done to diversify teams across the environmental field, but this takes time. In the interim, we acknowledge who drives our collaborations and where their worldviews come from.
Our Living Waters is an organization led by non-Indigenous people; it serves a Network of primarily non-Indigenous freshwater groups. While many OLW Network members work closely with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the watersheds they work to protect, Our Living Waters operates on a cross-country scale and is removed from the relationships that form with place-based work. Based on this position, we focus on holding ourselves and our non-Indigenous partners accountable to our responsibilities in Right Relations.
Our freshwater community has a lot of (inner) work to do to be able to hold space for Indigenous worldviews and leadership. Let’s roll up our sleeves!
Here’s a glimpse into how we are working to weave Right Relations into our key services:
Self-Actualization in the Freshwater Community - in action!
We encourage all Network members to take another step forward in the Right Relations journey.
Shared Measurement System - still in progress!
Network Weaving - in action!
Teams - in action!