community engaged projects

Legal Personhood of Lake Winnipeg


This project aims to explore the concept of legal personhood and the best way to recognize the rights of Lake Winnipeg.

In collaboration with the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective (LWIC), we are engaging with Indigenous communities in the north and south basins of the area using lenses of community engagement, shared responsibility, watershed management and policy. The goal of recognizing the legal personhood of Lake Winnipeg is to reimagine our responsibility to nature in order to regulate industrial outflows and contamination in the lake, to achieve better water quality. As envisioned by Elders and our partners, exploring the possibilities presented by legal personhood to the natural world is one step in a greater process that strengthens our relationship to water.

Led by LWIC and Decolonizing Water, this work is undertaken in partnership with Grand Council Treaty #3 and the Blackfoot Confederacy. Spanning 3-4 years, the project deliverables include:

  • A series of informational fact sheets and videos outlining the concept of legal personhood
  • A series of community engagement sessions with LWIC communities
  • A summit in summer 2023
  • Ongoing work to establish a system of multi-nation governance
Lake Winnipeg
Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg

Cree laws project

Misipawistik isihtwawina CREE LAWS PROJECT

Working with Elders and leaders of the Misipawistik Cree Nation (MCN), the goal of this project is to describe the Cree legal principles in a way that is accessible and understandable to all. These laws have always and continue to shape the MCN community. The principles are a way of living that is unique to the land, the water, and the people of Misipawistik Cree Nation.

With this knowledge, community members will continue to create guidelines for conduct and decision-making according to their priorities. This includes areas like moose management, forestry, and fisheries.


The Nibi Declaration of Treaty #3 outlines the relationship and responsibility that all Anishinaabe people have with water (Nibi) within Treaty #3 territory. It also speaks to the responsibilities and relationships that others have within the territory. The declaration is based on the understanding that we all have a relationship with water, and provides teachings to clarify the responsibilities and collaborative relationships needed to protect water for future generations.

The Nibi Declaration recognizes that water is alive, has spirit, and is connected to all life. Recognizing the spirit of Nibi is a vital part of the decision-making and water governance process. It also voices how Nibi is vital to all life, and that we need it to live a good life. Nibi unites us, and the sacred relationship and responsibility Anishinaabe have to Nibi means that we must work to heal Nibi. Anishinaabe women in particular have a special relationship to water and must look after the water.

In 2019 the Nibi Decleration was unanimously ratified by the Anishinaabe Nation of Treaty #3.

Treaty #3 NIbi Curriculum

The nibi curriculum is a new resource for water education and the understanding our living connection and relationship to water.

Stemming from the Treaty #3 Nibi Declaration the curriculum shares teachings for learners of all ages and backgrounds. It provides structured lesson plans, discussion prompts, and activities.

This resource will inspire greater action to be taken by individuals and groups to protect and care for Nibi (water).

By providing learners with a foundation of knowledge and a deeper understanding of the spirit of Nibi, they can grow their own personal relationships with Nibi, inspire others through their journey, and create more opportunity for awareness and action.

The curriculum flows through 4 themes – Nationhood, Nibi Is Life, Nibi Is Sacred, and Relationship with Nibi. 

“You need to know who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going, and the curriculum is an attempt to do that,” said Priscilla Simard, Elder and co-developer of the Nibi Decleration and Curriculum.


NIBI gathering
Nibi gathering

Every year, Elders, community members, and allies gather over four days to honour the sacredness of water and our responsibilities to Nibi (water).

Rooted in Anishinaabe tradition and ceremony, the four-day gathering takes place at the Manito Api Site, on Treaty No. 3 territory, within the Whiteshell Provincial Park.

The first gathering took place in 2013 and since then has focused on themes like Nibi Nagamonan – Water Songs, honouring the sacredness of birthing water, and Nibi Onje Biimaadiziwin – Water is life or Everything needs water to live.

The gathering is an opportunity for healing, unity, and coming together. It is a place where participants can feel inspired to commit to honouring and protecting the sacredness of water.

 Indigenous Environmental/Climate Justice

and Self-Determined Futures

Elders and First Nation leaders in the Robinson Huron Treaty area (RHT, comprised of 21 First Nations) have emphasized the importance of revitalizing Anishinaabek knowledge, legal and governance traditions to achieve justice, including environmental justice and protection, that meets Anishinaabek duties and responsibilities to the Earth.

The intention of this project is to identify, document, and codify Anishinaabek Naaknigewin (laws) and Giikendaaswin (knowledge). The project helps focus on recognizing and revitalizing the importance of both, laws and knowledge, to support community needs and a treaty wide movement towards water governance and water justice.

The area’s TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge) Elders group continues to direct this work in collaboration with Mamaweswen (North Shore Tribal Council-NSTC-provides the administrative support). University-based researchers also provide any additional support needed.

The intention of an earlier TEK Elders project was to develop a distinct treaty-wide Anishinaabek environmental governance framework that would, by Anishinaabek standards, ensure protection of the natural world for future generations.

As a continuation of this earlier project, we seek to conduct an Anishinaabek legal analysis and codify the identified laws based on the recordings of a 9 day gathering that contribute to a RHT water governance initiative and help ensure water security over the treaty area. This project centers around empirical, community-based and initiated research that supports on-the-ground application of Indigenous legal traditions and knowledge in water governance.

Image source: waawiindamaagewin.com

Water Teachings

The Water Teachings portal is based on knowledge from scholars and community members who are working to protect and honour the water.  We are extremely grateful to the many Indigenous community members who shared their teachings with us and for the important work that they do. Chi miigwetch.

Nibi Nagamoonan: Water songs

Decolonizing Water and Grand Council Treaty #3 are excited to present the Water Songs project, which shares a glimpse into the knowledge and songs that were exchanged through a water song gathering.

The first gathering brought together Anishinaabe grandmothers and youth from Treaty 3 territory to engage in the sharing and exchange of sacred traditional knowledge on nibi nagamoonan (water songs).