The Story Behind WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS and Writing Lyrical Nonfiction

Leave a comment on the bottom of this post for the chance to win a copy of We Are Water Protectors + a 20-minute Zoom call with Carole Lindstrom.

Miigwech, for inviting me to share a bit about my inspiration for We Are Water Protectors. I’ll also briefly touch on how I go about writing a nonfiction story that reads a bit like a fiction story.

I wrote We Are Water Protectors as a love letter to Standing Rock and all Indigenous People’s fighting for clean water and for the health of Mother Earth. I was inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protection of their land and water against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). A pipeline which would carry crude oil in pipelines underground. 

A camp was started by a few tribal members from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in April 2016 near the Cannonball River in Fort Yates, North Dakota in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. This movement of water protectors grew as word spread about the tribe’s struggle against DAPL.

I became aware of the situation in late May 2016, through social media. It had a profound effect on me, in terms of my identity – being a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. A tribe also located in North Dakota. As well as being a fellow water protector and steward of the earth.

In Ojibwe culture women are the protectors of the water. I’m sure that is a strong reason why I felt compelled to help and offer my support. Traveling to North Dakota from my home wasn’t possible. But I knew what was! Using my voice to tell a story. A story about this important movement and how it impacted the world by bringing together over 500 Native Nations from all over the world to stand for clean water.

The Ojibwe have a prophecy (as do many tribes), called the “Seven Fires Prophecy.” It foretold of a black snake that would come to destroy the earth if humans do not treat it with kindness and care. The prophecy is coming to life right before our eyes.

Art (c) Michaela Goade
Courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Click on the image to enlarge.

This is not just a Native American issue. This is an issue all living things on our planet face. 

Sadly, the pipeline has been built, despite DAPL having failed to provide an Environmental Impact Statement as to how the pipeline would affect the environment should there be a leak. And there was a leak, even before the last pipe was laid in the ground. These pipeline leaks cause considerable environmental damage on a daily basis.

Most tribes and their allies continue to fight pipelines and the extraction industry.

I have hope that the next generation, YOU, will continue to see the importance of preserving our precious planet by pledging to be a water protector with me!

When I write picture books, I have to be very careful of every word that I choose. Because I am limited to usually 500 words, I have to make sure each word is chosen with care. At the same time, I need to make sure to allow room for the illustrator to interpret my words in their own way. Because, as creators, it is both of our stories.

When it comes to writing nonfiction stories, for me, I like to tell a story first. Whatever and however that comes to mind. I like to use words that draw emotions and a reaction from the reader in some way. I prefer to leave the factual information in the back matter. I don’t think most children necessary are drawn to that. I think they are drawn to a story first, like I was as a child, and still am today. Then I like to delve into more about the person, place, event, etc.

Carole Lindstrom is an Anishinaabe/Métis author, who is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians. She writes books for children and young adults. Carole studied writing at The Institute of Children’s Literature. Her debut picture book, Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle, based on Métis culture, was published with Pemmican Publishers in 2013. Her poem, Drops of Gratitude, is included in the anthology, Thank U: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul and Illustrated by Marlena Myles, (Lerner/Millbrook – Fall 2019). Her picture book, We Are Water Protectors, inspired by Standing Rock, and all Indigenous Peoples’ fight for clean water – illustrated by Michaela Goade, (Roaring Brook Press – March 2020). She lives with her family in Maryland. Learn more about her by visiting her website, website, or by following her on Twitter @CaroleLindstrom.


  • This giveaway is for a copy of We Are Water Protectors + a 20-minute Zoom call with Carole Lindstrom. Many thanks to Roaring Brook Press for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of We Are Water Protectors + the call with Carole, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, May 22nd at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Stacey Shubitz will use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name she will announce at the bottom of this post, by Tueday, May 26th. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter the giveaway.
    • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Stacey can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. NOTE: There may be a shipping delay due to shipping-related issues caused by the novel coronavirus.
  • If you are the winner of the book, Stacey will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – LINDSTROM. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Comments are now closed. Kristen Picone is the winner of this giveaway.