Peel guide shares his passion

My name is Jimmy Johnny. I've been hunting and guiding in the Peel River watershed from 1958 up until last year. The Peel watershed is my home.

My name is Jimmy Johnny. I’ve been hunting and guiding in the Peel River watershed from 1958 up until last year. The Peel watershed is my home.

Over the past few years, I have worked pretty hard showing the Peel planning commission all the places that need to be protected: minerals licks, fish lakes, moose lakes, important places for all kinds of animals. I’ve been hearing lately about the Yukon government wanting to get rid of the Peel planning commission’s final plan, and open up the watershed for roads and mining. The Yukon government is showing no consideration for what people want, what people have said over the past years of Peel consultations, and the government is showing no consideration of the land.

I want protection in the Peel for all the trails I have walked, the mountains I have sat on, creeks and rivers that I have drunk from and places where I have camped. This isn’t because I am selfish.

This is because our ancestors have been in that area for years and years. They hunted and fished and followed where the game was and doing that they travelled the Wind, Bonnet Plume and Snake River areas. From the Bonnet Plume River they went up to the headwaters and over to the headwaters of the Stewart River. Then they walked above the canyon and when the canyon ended they built moose-skin boats or rafts and paddled down to Lansing Post. From there they headed down to Mayo.

There are old camps, stone-axe stumps and gravesites in many places in the Peel. I want to keep all these areas intact for future generations to go out there and learn how to survive.

As the years go by, I’ve seen a lot of mess left behind by the mining exploration companies. At Copper Point on the Bonnet Plume River, the drill sites are too close to all the mineral licks.

I’m afraid if mining ever started in the Peel River watershed it would be really bad for the downstream people. The water and the fish are so important to the people downriver in Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic and Inuvik. I don’t want to see the water polluted in any shape or form. No matter how much money you spend you can’t heal the land and make people healthy after you poison them.

I’ve been talking to Chevron Canada about the exploration and mining activity that has been going on out there and I asked them to look into the mess they left behind at the Crest leases between the Bonnet Plume and Snake River areas.

We dug out a map and I showed them where all the messes were from their exploration activity. They inform me that they are in the process of cleaning up the mess they left.

I told Chevron I’m very much against them mining out there. The mess they have left behind over the years of exploration is bad enough, but imagine how bad it would be for the wildlife if all kinds of companies keep exploring and then mining and building roads.

I have taken some pictures. One is of a cross at a gravesite at the Wind River, and the high cache is at the Snake River. This is to show that our ancestors have been out there a long time and it’s very, very important for our First Nations to protect the Peel River watershed.

I ask all Yukon First Nation people to show their support for protection of the Peel. I especially would like to urge Little Salmon/Carmacks and Selkirk people to support protection of their ancestors’ country in the Peel.

I would say to the Yukon government to leave the Peel watershed as it is – no mining activity or exploration, roads or airstrips.

Jimmy Johnny