A young indigenous girl learns the importance of water from her elders, then unites with her community and its supporters to defend it in Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade’s inspiring new picture book, We Are Water Protectors.
The unnamed girl’s grandmother teaches her that water is sacred, “the first medicine” that nourishes human life both in the womb and on Mother Earth. The girl’s community believes in a prophecy about a black snake that will threaten the water. Illustrator Goade depicts the snake with a series of angular turns that call to mind the oil pipelines which have been the subject of protests in recent years; the snake’s forked red tongue and red eyes are a menacing touch. The girl strikes powerful poses and holds hands with others to stand against the snake. Together, the communities confront the snake, fighting it on behalf of all the lives that depend on the water.
Throughout the book, Lindstrom, who is Anishinabe/Metis and tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, employs a powerful refrain that asserts the continued presence and ongoing commitment of indigenous peoples: “We stand with our songs and our drums. We are still here.” Her prose is powerful, timely and mesmerizing in its lyricism. Goade, who is an enrolled member of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, employs deep blues, purples and aquamarines to create enchanting waterscapes that envelope human figures whose skin she represents in a variety of hues. She weaves symbols from Ojibwe culture into the vibrant scenes, which blend images of people, animals and nature together into a striking and precious tapestry of interdependent life. It all adds up to a gorgeous and empowering picture book with an urgent environmental plea.