The making of a Great Lakes Commons


The Great Lakes Commons is a grassroots effort to establish the Great Lakes as a thriving, living commons — shared and sacred waters that we all protect in perpetuity. The Great Lakes Commons works to:

Awaken & Restore our relationship to these incredible waters.

Activate a spirit of responsibility and belonging in the bioregion.

Establish stewardship and governance that enables communities to protect these waters forever.


This is how some of our Charter Supporters are taking action. Add your name to the Commons Charter.

A Transformative Approach

With a revitalized vision for Great Lakes governance, a diverse team of water protectors spent 2 years co-creating the Great Lakes Commons Charter Declaration. It was a collaboration among Indigenous water defenders and advocates representing a range of geography, ancestry, and issues. Since the Charter’s launch, hundreds of people have responded and started a growing community affirming that these waters:

  • are the source of our wellbeing and identity

  • work as one interdependent whole connecting their health with ours

  • are a gift and eternal responsibility that every generation protects for the next one

  • have been shared and sustained by Indigenous nations throughout the ages

  • obligate nations into shared decision making through honorable treaty

Take Action

A new set of resources is now ready to help enliven our Great Lakes Commons Charter across the basin. With your energy, this Charter Toolkit can support more people, communities, and campaigns collaborating on the Great Lakes Commons vision. We welcome your feedback on how these resources can be adopted, improved, and expanded.

This Charter Toolkit currently includes: the Charter Declaration in 5 Great Lakes languages; native and non-native water governance introductions; ways-of-knowing workshop outlines; a series of water-commons conversation starters and concepts; and a set of community organizing practices.

The Charter Toolkit  helps:

  • connect human/water body health

  • work at a bioregional scale

  • indigenize water governance 

  • start new conversations about 'the commons' and our Commons Charter

  • build unity in 5 Great Lakes languages

  • host visioning & organizing strategies

  • teach water ethics & gratitude 

Generous support for 2019 provided by:

The Park Foundation

Our community donors