Women and Water: Professor Aimée Craft seeks to advance Indigenous water governance

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Indigenous Law

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

Aimee Craft
In an era of water scarcity and resource disputes, responsibilities relating to lands and waters must be better understood. Indigenous laws are a critical part of addressing these issues, and one of the strongest and most enduring expressions of Indigenous laws is through art.

As water keepers, women are at the center of Anishinaabe inaakonigewin (law) and giigendaasowin (knowledge) relating to lands and waters, and are thus in a unique position to develop art, as well as legal advocacy, research, and writing around water.

Professor Aimée Craft has been awarded a Partnership Engage Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for a project entitled “Women and Water: Anishinaabekwe Collaboration Across Water Jurisdictions”. The primary objective of this project is a gendered and land-based exploration of women's sacred responsibilities to nibi (water) and a building of Anishinaabe kwe (women's) exchange on water giigensaasowin (knowledge) and inaakonigewin (law). Professor Craft and her research team are partnering with the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) to engage women from Anishinaabe communities in Canada (Treaty #3) and the northern United States (Ojibwe tribes) in discussing individual, community, and nation-based responsibilities to water. This will help create dialogue between artists, activists, and legal theorists about Anishinaabe water laws and principles, and their dynamic and live expression.

The research team will host a workshop in 2023 with support from the Oberholtzer Foundation Program Committee, which facilitates workshops on Mallard Island in Ontario. The Island rests on Rainy Lake, over which Canada and the United States exercise shared jurisdiction. This unique position makes it an ideal place, centered in Anishinaabe territory, for unique conversations between Anishinaabe women from both countries that aren’t constrained by international boundaries or impacts. The partnership is working towards strengthening the political agency of Indigenous nations in navigating their individual, community and nation-based responsibilities to water.

The project will ultimately produce shared knowledge through artistic projects and publications, which will be circulated broadly within Indigenous and legal communities. Findings from the project will be useful for public education, and will benefit Indigenous communities, provincial, state, and federal governments, industries, and others, while advancing knowledge within the research community. The project will also contribute to interdisciplinary and community-engaged Indigenous legal thinking and methodologies.

SSHRC Partnership Engage Grants provide short-term support for partnered research activities that respond to the immediate needs of organizations in non-academic sectors, facilitating the exchange of unique knowledge, expertise and capabilities.

Congratulations to Professor Aimée Craft and her team on establishing this important partnership!