Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Indigenous Women Water Defenders: Local to Global

Indigenous Women Water poste

The Indigenous Women Water Defenders: Local to Global public event will highlight the leadership of Indigenous women in the local and global resource justice movement.

Speakers will address the impact of resource extraction on their communities and the strategies they have used to raise Indigenous, environmental and social justice concerns about proposed projects.

The extraction of oil, gas and minerals has intensified around the world and resource companies typically pursue projects across borders. Globally, Canadian companies are among the biggest players in the sector and domestically, the Canadian economy, including the BC economy, depends heavily on resource extraction pursued by both foreign and Canadian companies.

The majority of these activities take place on land claimed or owned by Indigenous communities, who often raise concerns over impacts on the environmental, livelihood, rights and culture. When companies and governments fail to respond, communities are forced to pursue other available avenues to raise their concerns, including before local courts, international tribunals and through social protest.

The speakers

The event features a special international guest, Mari Luz Canaquiri, president of the Kukama Women’s Federation in the northern Peruvian Amazon.

Accompanying Mari Luz will be Stephanie Boyd, an independent Canadian filmmaker who has won more than 25 awards for her films documenting mining justice issues in Peru and Miguel Araoz, an award-winning Peruvian filmmaker and visual artist. 

Stephanie and Miguel are currently working on a documentary film that captures the Kukama struggle for justice as they face decades of chronic oil spills and as they oppose the conversion of one of their main rivers and sources of livelihood into a “Water Highway” for transporting oil on large tankers. TRU Law students are doing legal research to support the Kukama and other communities in Latin America and Africa impacted by resource extraction.

Local and regional speakers will talk about the proposed resource projects in BC. Speaking about the proposed Taseko mine in Tsilhqot’in territory will be Marilyn Baptiste, member of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, co-founder of First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining and recipient of the 2015 international Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest international award for grassroots environmental activism.

Speaking about the proposed Ajax mine on Secwepmec territory will be Viola Thomas, Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Councillor and former leader of the National Association of Indigenous Friendship Centres, the United Native Nations Society of BC and the Rural Remote BC Native Housing Authority, and Jeanette Jules, a Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Councillor with responsibility for the Natural Resources/Legal portfolio since 2009, is also a traditional knowledge carrier.

Speaker bios

Mari Luz Canaquiri Marayari is president of the Kukama Women’s Federation and has been working tirelessly on campaigns to defend the Amazon’s rivers and indigenous territory for the past 20 years.

She is a mother, grandmother and farmer and lives in a small village on the Marañon River in Peru’s northern Amazon region. At the age of 13 she had to leave school to help support her family and began working as a housekeeper and nanny in the large jungle city of Iquitos.

Mariluz was field producer and protagonist of the short film Parana-The River (2016) about her struggle to defend her river from modern pressures, like a massive Water Highway project. Parana won an award from Peru’s Ministry of Culture for best short film from the region of Cusco.

She was also one of the publishers and authors of the book Karuara, People of the River (2016), a book of Kukama oral histories and legends, illustrated by children. In the book, Mariluz tells the story of how the Kukama people were created by a union between a Boa Woman and a fisherman.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the production of the film and book, and about the project with the Kukama people, watch this video.

Stephanie Boyd is an independent Canadian film maker who has been living in Peru for 20 years.

She co-founded the film collective Quisca Productions, based in the Andean mountain region of Cusco, and has produced and co-directed three feature documentaries about mining justice.

These films have won more than 30 awards, been broadcast around the world on stations such as the Sundance Channel, Al Jazeera Outside TV, TeleSur and at hundreds of film festivals and grassroots events. Quisca holds free screenings and video production workshops in Peru and has donated over 2,000 DVDs of its films to community leaders, educators, activists, universities, libraries and independent media.

Marilyn Baptiste is a councillor and former Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation in British Columbia, one of the six First Nations making up the Tsilhqot’in Nation, which was awarded the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2014 declaring Aboriginal title.

Marilyn co-founded the First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining to challenge mining development projects in Xeni Gwet’in land.

She has collaborated with community leaders from the Yunesit’in and the broader Tsilhqot’in Nation to permanently protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and the surrounding areas as Dasiqox Tribal Park.

For her work in leading her community to defeat a large mining project and preparing submissions for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency mining review, Marilyn was the recipient of the 2015 international Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest international award for grassroots environmental activism.

Viola Thomas is a Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Councillor with responsibility for the education portfolio. She is a residential school survivor and has spent 30 years advancing the rights of Indigenous peoples at the regional and national level.

She was the first Indigenous woman elected to lead the National Association of Indigenous Friendship Centres, the United Native Nations Society of BC and the Rural Remote BC Native Housing Authority.

She worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for seven years, playing a key role in raising public awareness and participation.

She has worked with numerous organizations and institutions from grassroots community groups to the federal government. When Elder Josephine Mandamin bestowed Viola with her spirit name, she said: “I give you this spirit name Anemiki Wedom, meaning Thunder Spirit Voice, as I have had a vision of you leading the people, with your powerful voice, wisdom and heart.”

Jeanette Jules is a Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Councillor with responsibility for the Natural Resources/Legal portfolio since 2009. 

She is a residential school survivor and prior to her election as councillor she spent over 30 years living and working in her community developing education programs for children, including in Little Fawn Nursery, which has an immersion program to teach children the Secwépemc culture and language—the first of its kind in Canada. From an early age, Jeanette was singled out to be an educator for the community. Her elders taught her the oral history of her family and her community.

Jeanette is now a keeper of the flame, traditional knowledge carrier, pipe carrier, eagle, swan and coyote whistle carrier, sweat lodgekeeper, ceremonial keeper and medicine keeper for the Secwépemc. Jeanette believes her community has a duty to future generations, to encourage the growth and development of their land and people by building a strong sustainable economy.