I am a Tr’ondek Hwech’in citizen with extensive interest in the mining industry, and I recognize the value that the industry has to the territorial economy. That being said, I wish to express my support for 100 per cent protection of the Peel Watershed.
This area, long used by the Han, Gwich’in and Northern Tutchone people, is of unique international value. Very few places in the world remain so completely untouched by industrial development while maintaining the indigenous people’s traditional subsistence culture, tens of thousands of years old.
I have, on numerous occasions, hunted in the Peel. The Peel has often provided resources and livelihood for the indigenous peoples. The contention that the primary value of the Peel is in the development of the mining industry is ludicrous; properly developed in collaboration with aboriginal people, the ecotourism sector could greatly exceed any short-term economic benefits from mining, while maintaining the fundamental integrity of the ecosystem.
Further, while the Peel does not have personal family connections for me, I recognize that numerous Tr’ondek Hwech’in families have significant family connections to the area, which will be damaged by increased industrial activity. Some of my fondest memories have been working with our various youth programs, such as the First Hunt, and I have seen the importance of ensuring that our youth have these opportunities to form connections to the land and connections to their traditional lifestyles that help ensure that youth are able to succeed in all areas of life. Indeed, our main camp for the First Hunt is located within the Peel planning area in an area designated for development. It would be unfortunate to see this important program lost.
Finally, I believe that allowing limited access without removing mining claims will not work under Yukon’s mining acts (quartz and placer). There is a requirement for access to develop claims and I fear that, should the mining claims not be removed, at some point in the future this requirement for access may jeopardize even protected areas, and may place at risk this wonderful and spiritual area so important to northern First Nation people, and put at risk one of the most important ecological treasures that Yukon has to pass down to all future generations and all of the people of the world.
Benjamin Bruce Warnsby