Jannan Cornstalk is a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, a renowned water warrior, and a recent Freshwater Future Hero. Last week, she presented at the “Indigenous Women from North America Defending Biodiversity, Human Rights, and our Global Climate” panel at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues session. Jannan addressed the panel with a prayer to the creator and jumped into the fight against the Line 5 pipeline that threatens the entirety of the Great Lakes.
Her tribe is a fishing community that has been resisting the expired pipeline and proposed tunnel project. She offered up the ancient Quechua story of the hummingbird – who flits back and forth from a great forest fire, carrying water from the river. When the other animals laugh, she replies, “I’m doing what I can.” Jannan identified with this story and encouraged others to be the change they want to see. In her talk, Jannan highlights that she “always [tries] to connect people emotionally with the water and the land. It is our relative…you want to love, nurture, and take care of it”. The Water is Life Festival, which Jannan founded in 2017, celebrates just that – connecting with each other and our waters. The annual festival has become a powerful platform for artists, activists, and community members to connect, learn, and collaborate in the fight for water justice.
Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), which hosted this event, also facilitates the Indigenous Women’s Treaty Alliance. This alliance of Indigenous women leaders from the Great Lakes region has organized a strong movement against Line 5 that has engaged the public and decision-makers. Jannan is an active member and leader in this group. Freshwater Future has been honored to support Jannan’s work through the years with funding, sponsorship and capacity building. This has included logistic support for the festival to run smoothly, organizational support, and responding to the ever-changing needs of this growing event and campaign. We love to see her voice and leadership uplifted at the highest levels for this issue. Be sure to check out her talk and join Jannan at this year’s Water is Life Festival!