Supporting Water Protectors at Stoic Beauty
Stoic Beauty is a skincare company on a mission to do water justice: to think about the biodegradability of ingredients in water, and whether those ingredients bioaccumulate in aquatic life. This blog post is part of a series explaining why Stoic's mission is inherently tied to Indigenous allyship.
Water is Life
Water is essential to life. It sustains the planet and all its inhabitants. To protect water is to protect life because it is an interconnected thing which implicates us all. Forests, shellfish, orchids, humans, and worms are all sustained by water. Clean, life-giving water is a resource that becomes more valuable and more scarce with every passing year. It is a vulnerable entity that must be protected.
Canada is home to one of the largest sources of drinking water on the planet. That is 20% of the world’s surface freshwater and 7% of its available water flow. This abundance of renewable freshwater puts Canada in a wealthy global position and that position carries great responsibility. But what does responsible water management look like? Who is accountable when water sources dry up or become polluted? Where can we look for leadership and who needs our support in the movement to protect the water?
What is a Water Protector?
Indigenous Nations have been caring for the land and water of Turtle Island (now called North America) since time immemorial. The term water protector emerged from First Nations communities to represent the activist work and world view of Indigenous land defenders and environmental advocates who protect water as sacred. Indigenous water protectors are at the forefront of the fight to defend Canada’s water. According to Indigenous activist and scholar Nick Estes, water protector is a “universal identity that is grounded in Indigenous values”. The work includes shielding waterways from industrial development that pollutes water and poisons aquatic life, advocating to maintain and improve access to clean drinking water, and the research and development of sustainable strategies for economic growth that prioritizes the wellbeing of water for generations to come.
Water protectors are often labeled as protesters when, in fact, they are leaders on the path towards water justice. In 2021, a report published by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International found that “Indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least 25% of annual U.S. & Canadian emissions.” Today, Indigenous peoples are a small percentage of the population living on Turtle Island (around 5% in Canada), yet their traditional ecological knowledge and acts of resistance have a vast impact whose ripples protect us all.
Stoic Beauty & Water Protectors
For years, our co-founder Maria Wodzinska has been vocal about her support for water protectors. Most recently, she travelled to Treaty 6 territory (in Edmonton) to attend the Water is Life Legal Summit. This two-day event, hosted by the Keepers of the Water and the Indigenous Knowledge Wisdom Centre, explored water protection from an Indigenous lens. A pressing Canadian issue, covered at the summit, is water contaminated by the process of oil extraction. These polluted waters, called tailings ponds, are a toxic waste product created in Alberta’s oilsands. Alberta’s tailings water contains chemical compounds including mercury, naphthenic acids, bitumen, and high levels of salt - all of which are highly toxic to life. It is a very dangerous product that must be contained and treated with great care.
However, the volume of these tailings ponds continues to grow, demanding new management systems. Currently, the Government of Canada is reviewing regulations under the Fisheries Act that may allow the release of tailings into Canada’s freshwater supply. The proposal to treat tailings ponds as sewage and release it into a major Canadian source of fresh drinking water is a pressing risk to all Canadians and will have global repercussions. Indigenous scholars and activist are working tirelessly to set a high standard of regulation and to prevent undertreated tailings ponds from being released into the Athabasca River. This is only one example of why water protectors need recognition and support now to control the irreversible damage fossil fuel extraction is inflicting on our most fundamental resource.
Inspired by Patagonia’s activist business model, Stoic Beauty is in the business of science backed Skincare that inspires, supports, and accomplishes water justice. That means we prioritize keeping our water clean and accessible. And, as a Canadian company, we recognize the responsibility we have to this land’s traditional stewards and treaty holders. Stoic Beauty is committed to deep environmental stewardship and to supporting the Indigenous water protectors who take great risks and make great sacrifices to protect the water we all share.
 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-402-x/2011000/chap/env/env-eng.htm **2011 Canadian Stat
 Valandra, Edward. “Mni Wiconi: Water Is [More than] Life.” Standing with Standing Rock, 22 Jan. 2020, https://www.academia.edu/41706063/Mni_Wiconi_Water_Is_More_Than_Life.
 Estes, Nick. “The Age of the Water Protector and Climate Chaos.” YouTube, 28 June 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki7OmflLgWg.
Photo: Stoic Co-Founder Maria at Water is Life protest in giant puppet. Photo credit: Tamara Romanchuk. Puppet by Clay & Paper Theatre troupe 2016. Paint & Costume by Marek Wojcik.