Kluane Adamek, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief, sits in her Whitehorse office on Mar. 17. Adamek was named one of Canada’s most influential women for 2021. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)

Kluane Adamek, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief, sits in her Whitehorse office on Mar. 17. Adamek was named one of Canada’s most influential women for 2021. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)

Kluane Adamek named one of Canada’s most influential women for 2021

The AFN Regional Chief has been recognized for climate and youth leadership advocacy

Kluane Adamek, the Yukon’s regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), has been named one of Canada’s top 25 most influential women for 2021.

“It means a lot to look at the 25 women, and those who identify, who are being celebrated here, and to really see that diversity reflected,” Adamek said, noting that her fellow award-winners contribute to a diverse mosaic of background, experience and identity.

“Leadership isn’t about a role or a title, right,” she continued. “It’s about who you are, how you show up and your values, and leading from that place. And so, I’m feeling incredibly humbled, moved, and inspired, of course.”

The Top 25 Women of Influence is an independent award honouring self-identified women leading initiatives for the greater good, breaking barriers and acting as role models to drive change.

Adamek has been awarded for her work in climate advocacy, youth leadership and personal success as the youngest woman to ever serve in her role.

Adamek has been the AFN regional chief since January 2018, spending six months as the appointed interim leader before her election to a full three-year term that summer.

In 2020, she hosted the first-ever regional First Nation climate gathering, “Shared Heart,” and the Assembly of First Nations’ inaugural National Climate Gathering. The former focused on connecting youth and elders in advocacy.

In an interview on March 17, Adamek said that environmentalism and climate advocacy are foundational for her as a leader.

“I continue to hear from knowledge-keepers: if we don’t have land, if we don’t have animals, if we don’t have our water, then what is it that we’re talking about?” Adamek said.

Kluane Adamek reviews her calendar in her Whitehorse office on March 17. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)

Adamek holds the national AFN portfolio for climate change and the environment, as well as the portfolio for youth and modern treaties.

Her office launched a Climate Action Fellowship this month, in partnership with the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Youth Climate Lab. The fellowship is a 20-month program for First Nation citizens aged 18 to 30.

Adamek expressed optimism that the fellowship will engage youth and present opportunities to hold conversation and drive tangible change.

“This is exactly what we need, we need to have this generation — grounded, of course, in traditional values and teachings and building those bi-directional relationships with knowledge-keepers and elders — also able to be supported in creating their own solutions,” Adamek said.

Adamek’s climate advocacy intersects with her prioritization of youth in leadership. She dubbed 2020 the “Year of the Youth” and was noted as a champion for emerging leaders by the Top 25 committee.

“The energy and inspiration you can feel when young people are in a room and sharing their ideas, that will be something that I remain committed to, that is part of who I am,” Adamek said.

“It’s equipping the next generation with all the tools, all the resources, everything they need to step into those places and spaces of decision-making.”

Earlier this month, Adamek spoke with students at F.H. Collins, Selkirk and Grey Mountain schools. She led open discussions about climate and gave the students an opportunity to ask her questions.

“Those are the moments in this role that I feel almost the most inspired and, in a lot ways, the most grounded, because it’s so real … the decisions that we’re making right now have nothing to do with us. It’s all about these young people,” she said.

Adamek strives to make leadership accessible for youth, and hopes the Women of Influence award might act as a source of inspiration for the next generation.

“I think that this award, if anything for me, I hope that other young Indigenous women are able to see themselves. You can be included in a group like that, you have all of the tools necessary, and skills,” Adamek said.

“We think about Jody Wilson-Raybould, we think about the two former regional chiefs, Mary Jane Jim and Shirley Adamson who have served in this role. I wouldn’t be in this role if I didn’t see myself through them. That can be a conduit to support other young women, to step forward, and that is amazing. That’s what it really needs to be about.”

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

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