“Water is Life”: Indigenous Views on Water and Wom


  • Deborah Saidero Università degli Studi di Udine




Water, Women, Indigenous Knowledge, Katherena Vermette, K Dawn Martin


The current water crisis is disproportionately affecting many Indigenous communities across Canada, where the lack of access to water has life-threatening effects on Native health and, in particular, on Indigenous women and girls who are more vulnerable to waterborne infections and mental health problems resulting from water deprivation. Moreover, the inability to carry out their domestic tasks makes women more exposed to lateral violence within their households. To counter this violence against women and water, Indigenous women writers are drawing on their traditional knowledge to assert the sacredness of water and of women as water carriers and life-givers. As part of their broader decolonizing politics to oppose settler-colonialism and destructive views of the Earth as a commodity, they are reasserting their peoples’ traditional roles as water protectors and emphasizing the vital and transformative role of water as a source of life and renewal. This article analyses Katherena Vermette’s collection of poetry river woman and K Dawn Martin’s performative piece “Kahnekanoron – Water is Life” which offer a counter discourse to both the settler view of water as a source of profit and the migrant view of water as a passageway to an unknown Eden. The aim is to show how Indigenous views of water as a source of interconnection between humans, animals and nature offer an alternative to Western ideologies of exploitation of the Earth and to the colonial mindset that spurs unequal and violent relations among human beings. The woman-water connection elicited in these poems emphasizes the importance of both for our survival, but also sheds light on how both are intertwined as an effect of patriarchal violence. Ultimately, by celebrating water as a living being, these writers posit water as a site of resistance and healing from the wounds of colonization.


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How to Cite

Saidero, D. (2024). “Water is Life”: Indigenous Views on Water and Wom. Oltreoceano - Rivista Sulle Migrazioni, (22), 61–72. https://doi.org/10.53154/Oltreoceano80



Anglophone Literatures and America