Brother Ocean, Sister Lake: Why Bodies of Water Deserve Respect and Human Rights

Dr. Kelsey Leonard, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and member of the Shinnecock Nation, discusses how Indigenous views on the personhood of water can save that water. More and more bodies of water around the world are being granted legal personhood status, which gives them the right to be defended from industrial pollution. Dr. Leonard is fighting to make water justice a priority across government and bridge the gap between Indigenous belief and Western law.

Show Transcript

Guest Bio

As a water scientist and protector, Dr. Kelsey Leonard seeks to establish Indigenous traditions of water conservation as the foundation for international water policy-making.

Dr. Kelsey Leonard is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo. She represents the Shinnecock Indian Nation on the Mid-Atlantic Committee on the Ocean, which is charged with protecting America's ocean ecosystems and coastlines. She also serves as a member of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission. Dr. Leonard has been instrumental in safeguarding the interests of Indigenous Nations for environmental planning, and builds Indigenous science and knowledge into new solutions for water governance and sustainable oceans.


Kelseys Website

Kelseys 2019 Ted Talk

Whanganui River granted legal personhood

News on the grant of legal personhood to Lake Erie from the City of Toledo

Additional & Related Links

Peter Benchley Ocean Awards

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission


Find Kelsey on Twitter