Posts tagged Niki Watts
Women and the Water (Walking) Movement

For World Water Day 2018 we recognize the inspiring Indigenous women who protect water for us all.

"As women, we are carriers of the water. We carry life for the people. So when we carry that water, we are telling people that we will go any lengths for the water." — Josephine Mandamin

Across North America, Indigenous women have organized and participated in movements advocating for clean and protected water. Here are some of their stories.

Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier has advocated for water protection since she was eight years old. Now 13, she will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly on World Water Day. Inspired to speak about water issues by her aunt, Josephine Mandamin, Peltier spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when she met him at the Assembly of First Nations' annual winter gathering in December 2017. Peltier was nominated for the 2017 International Children's Peace Prize. She is Anishinaabe, from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island.

Sharon Day

Sharon Day is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and founder of Nibi Walk, an organization that coordinates Indigenous-led water walks in the United States to promote people's spiritual and physical relationship with water.  Nibi Walk has a clear message: "We are not a protest. We are a prayer for the water." Sharon Day is Ojibwe, enrolled in the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota.

Shirley Williams and Elizabeth Osawamick

For the past 10 years, Elder Shirley Williams and her niece Elizabeth Osawamick have organized a group that hosts annual water walks held around Ontario's Kawartha region called Nibi Emosaawdamajig (Those Who Walk for the Water). In September 2017, they worked with the group Great Lakes Water Walk to organize a walk for hundreds of people along Toronto's waterfront, advocating for clean water. Shirley Williams is Midewiwin and a member of the Bird Clan from the Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Elizabeth Osawamick is also Anishinaabe Midewiwin-kwe. 

Winona LaDuke

In 1993, Winona LaDuke co-founded Honor the Earth, an initiative that helps to organize and finance Indigenous environmental movements. The group has re-granted over two million dollars to over 200 Indigenous communities for their environmental efforts. LaDuke has been active in fighting against oil pipelines, acting as a strong voice against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota that began in 2016. Winona LaDuke is Ojibwe and she lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota.

Josephine Mandamin

Known as the "Water Walker" for traversing the perimeter of the Great Lakes, Anishnaabe Elder Josephine Mandamin co-founded the Mother Earth Water Walkers, a group that walks to raise awareness about water pollution.  Since 2003, Mandamin has walked over 17,000 kilometers for the water walking movement, and has attended conferences to discuss issues about water quality. Josephine is from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island and now lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Read About Josephine Mandamin

Nibi is Water
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The Water Walker is a picture book that brings the story of Josephine Mandamin's water work to young readers aged 69.


Joanne Robertson, author of The Water Walker

Joanne Robertson is herself a Water Walker, helping to support many walks through live GPS spotting to make sure the water, and the walkers, are safe on their journeys. Joanne lives near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Follow Joanne on Facebook: @JoanneRobertsonStudio

Announcing the Winners of Our 2018 Indigenous Writing and Illustration Contest!

We're thrilled to announce two winning authors and one winning artist for our 2018 Indigenous Writing and Illustration Contest.

Congratulations to the co-winners for writing: Jodie Callaghan and Michael Hutchinson, and the winner for illustration: Niki Watts!


Jodie Callaghan

Mìgmaq Author

Listuguj, Quebec

Jodie Callaghan’s The Train is a deeply moving picture book manuscript that conveys much about the pain and lasting legacy of residential schools. When young Ashley comes across her Uncle waiting at an abandoned train station near their community, she wonders why he is there. He tells her that this was where he and other children were put on a train and taken to residential school, with no goodbyes to their families and no sense of what awaited them. Juror Monique Gray Smith loved the relationship between Ashley and her Uncle. She was struck by the power of dialogue in which a few sentences captures the impact of Canada’s legislative decisions, like residential schools. When Ashley asks why the children were treated so terribly, her Uncle tells her simply “Because we were different”. And when he tells her “I am waiting for what was lost that day to come back to us.” the young girl tells him she will wait
with him.

Michael Hutchinson

Member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Michael Hutchinson’s The Case of Windy Lake is a middle grade manuscript that the author describes as an Indigenous Hardy Boys. The story takes place on the fictional Windy Lake First Nation where a group of friends, known as the “Mighty Muskrats”, have set up a fort in an old school bus out of which they base their investigations into mysterious events in their community. The jury was struck by the story’s charm and originality, noting that it fills a needed space in children’s lit and successfully combines the kids’ mystery genre with some deeper themes. Juror Jan Bourdeau Waboose says Hutchinson “portrays native life and culture very well. He's very knowledgeable and respectful. Indigenous kids will relate to this, and so will those who aren't from those communities.”

Niki Watts

Cree Artist

Bella Coola, British Columbia

Niki Watts submitted a portfolio of beautiful illustration work done mainly in pencil, with a delicacy of line and realistic depiction of nature, animals, and people that immediately struck the jury. They liked that Watts noted in her bio that she believes that “art can be a catalyst for change and can be a voice for issues that need to be heard.” Juror Margie Wolfe was impressed by Watts’ ability, noting, “she has a great gift for drawing people, and particularly faces. It’s rare to find an artist who can capture such emotion. It’s something that is highly sought after for book illustration.” Second Story Press is looking forward to working with Niki Watts on a future book illustration project.


The winning submissions were chosen by a jury comprised of Second Story Press publisher Margie Wolfe; writer Jan Bourdeau Waboose, who is First Nation Anishinaabe and the author of The Spirit Trackers; and writer, speaker, and consultant Monique Gray Smith, who is of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish ancestry and is the author of Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation.

About the Indigenous Writing and Illustration Contest

In December 2014, Second Story Press announced its inaugural Writing Contest to celebrate its 25th anniversary and to build on its already strong list of diverse children’s books. In the fall of 2017 the press, known for publishing independent, feminist-inspired books for adults and young readers, announced that it was once again looking for contemporary writing for a young reader audience that reflects the experience of Indigenous peoples written by an Indigenous writer. This time the contest included a new category for illustration, open to Indigenous artists.

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Media Coverage

Local artist Niki Watts wins 2018 Indigenous illustration contest  Raised in Bella Coola, Watts is of Cree heritage and is a well-known artist in the community

Local artist Niki Watts wins 2018 Indigenous illustration contest
Raised in Bella Coola, Watts is of Cree heritage and is a well-known artist in the community


Our Inaugural Contest Winners from 2015

Susan Currie

Melanie Florence

Stolen Words
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