A new children’s book, titled Nibi’s Water Song written by Sunshine Tenasco, follows a young Indigenous girl named Nibi, the Anishinaabemowin word for water, in her search of clean and safe water to drink. Nibi is thirsty and so she tries to drink water from her tap but the water that comes out is brown and unsafe to drink, she then goes down to the river to get a drink but is told a fish that she cannot drink the dirty water. Nibi then goes to the nice neighboring community where she is given a plastic water bottle.
According to Tenasco, “This is a representation of the reality in First Nations communities all across Canada.” Tenasco’s own community, Kitigan Zibi, hasn’t had clean drinking water for the last 15 years. Questioning why more people weren’t talking about the water crisis and why schools weren’t educating their students about the issue, Tenasco worked with Scholastic Canada to bring awareness into classrooms across the country. It is important to educate young people as Tenasco says, “When those kids are older, they’re the ones who are going to be making all the changes.” Tenasco also partnered with Chief Lady Bird, a Chippewa and Potawatomi artist, to illustrate Nibi’s story. Chief Lady Bird says she hopes, “That this book, and all of the other Indigenous books out there, show our young people how powerful they are… and how much they matter.”
In the book, Nibi takes her search for clean drinking water to the Parliament buildings where she knocks and knocks but no one answers. Tenasco thought this was important to include, “Saying like ‘hey we’re here’. This should be an equal right. This should be a human right in Canada, not just a First Nations issue.”