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Protecting Water in Picture Books

It is a mark of shame for Canada that Shoal Lake #40 reserve has had a boil water advisory since 1997, even though Shoal Lake provides drinking water for thousands of Canadians. Other First Nations communities are in similar situations, with Canada currently having 52 long term drinking water advisories in 33 communities. Indigenous activists have spoken out about the importance of protecting water and ensuring that everyone in Canada has safe drinking water. Supporting this cause is vital, as all people in Canada should have access to safe drinking water and a healthy environment.

Below are different picture books that focus on protecting water. They are excellent texts to introduce and explore the need to protect water in Canada. I have suggested news articles and other resources that would pair well with each text to further students' inquiry and understanding.

  • We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade. This is a Caldecott award winning book with stunning artwork. It shows Indigenous perspectives regarding the sacredness of water, while telling the story of Indigenous-led movements to protect water. The afterword connects the book to Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock to the Dakota Access Pipeline. This book also strongly connects to similar stories of Indigenous activism in Canada.
  • Nibi's Water Song, written by Sunshine Tenasco and illustrated by Chief Lady Bird. This story follows a girl named Nibi, who cannot find clean water in her community and goes on a journey advocating for clean water for everyone. This is an excellent book for teaching about the lack of access to clean water in Indigenous communities throughout Canada. As well, it would be a good pairing to discuss Indigenous water protectors and activists.
  • The Water Walker, by Joanne Robertson. This book focuses on an Ojibwe grandmother who journeys to protect the water for her grandchildren and future generations. She is joined by other people across the continent, creating a movement for the protection of water. The book is inspired by the life of Josephine-ba Madamin, who walked to protect water.
  • Oil, by Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter. Instead of celebrating activists, this book acts as a warning. It tells the story of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, showing the effect on the coastal environment and the Indigenous people living nearby. This is an excellent text to prompt deeper exploration of recent oil spills, as well as greater understanding of how our actions impact the environment.