International Labour Organization / Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association / Human Rights Watch / Te Kopu - Pacific Indigenous & Local Knowledge Centre of Distinction / UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility

Protection of the Sacred: Wastewater management and Indigenous Realities

Monday 28 August | 14.00-15.30 | Room: NL Music Hall
Youths walk along the road in Neskantaga First Nation, a remote community in Northern Ontario which has been on a boil water advisory since 1995. © 2015 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Indigenous peoples’ leadership in protecting water and mother earth became a global focus at Standing Rock, North Dakota, US, raising the prominence of the rights of indigenous peoples to participate in decisions related to water. The cultural and spiritual relationships of indigenous peoples across the globe to water are threatened by environmental destruction and pollution of traditional water sources by human and industrial waste, compounding health and social impacts.  

Indigenous peoples bear great knowledge about water resources, having managed and protected them successfully for millennia. Indigenous women, often with traditional knowledge, are at the forefront of movements to common water sources. Yet, Indigenous peoples are often overlooked as strategic partners in water management in general, and wastewater management in particular.

Human rights implications due to a lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate wastewater systems, including the impact on cultural rights, are rarely included in the current discussions about SDG 6.3. and related targets.

The event will discuss: the holistic worldview of many indigenous peoples in relation to water; the implications of wastewater management on indigenous culture and survival; and how other actors can ensure that indigenous peoples participate in decision-making, planning and designing of solutions.


Moderator: Maren Heuvels, BORDA  

14:00 Protection of the Sacred – Indigenous Views on (Waste)water

  • Kathleen Padulo, Chiefs of Ontario, Canada
  • Tui Shortland, Te Kopu - Pacific Indigenous & Local Knowledge Centre of Distinction, New Zealand 
  • Q&A

14:15 Research – What are the key findings?

  • Juana Vera Delgado, ILO & Gender and Water Alliance
  • Alejandro Jimenez, SIWI 
  • Tui Shortland, Te Kopu
  • Kathleen Padulo, Chiefs of Ontario
  • Amanda Klasing, HRW
  • Q&A

15:45 “My wish for the water sector to do (differently) when working with our communities”
Tui Shortland
, Te Kopu , and Kathleen Padulo, Chiefs of Ontario 

15.00 “What I always wanted to ask about working in Indigenous communities” Input from the audience & discussion

15:25 Wrap up & main takeaways

15:30 Close of Session