A new co-management agreement has been signed for the hydroelectric generating station on Champagne and Aishihik (CAFN) territory.
The agreement intends to limit the adverse effects of the dam on the CAFN people and territory.
The agreements, signed by representatives of CAFN, the Yukon government and Yukon Energy at CAFN’s general assembly on July 21 marked a new open collaboration on the management of the Aishihik Generating Station, a hydroelectric station located on the Aishihik river north of the Alaska Highway.
CAFN chief Steve Smith (Kaaxnox, Dän Nätthe Äda) said he recognizes the dam is vital to powering the Yukon but also spoke of the harm that has been done in the 50 years since its construction.
Smith said the hydroelectric dam has cut off important portions of wetland and increased sedimentation and erosion along the Aishihik River. Along with the impacts to fish, wildlife and traditional uses of the area, Smith said the dam led to increased flooding at the CAFN Canyon Creek settlement downstream of the dam, near the Aishihik’s confluence with the Dezadeash River.
Sitting alongside the signatories to the agreement at the July 21 signing ceremony was CAFN elder Margaret Workman. Workman described growing up in the village of Aishihik and being relocated from the area along with her family.
“I don’t know how many years we’ve been fighting for this day. I was born and raised in Aishihik and they moved us out of there about three times and we kept going back there like a dirty old shirt. This is where we live this is where we grew up, this is where my children grew up,” she said.
Smith said when the dam was constructed 50 years ago, no one heeded the words of the CAFN chief or people but that has changed and he feels heard by Premier Sandy Silver.
He said the new agreements put CAFN “in the copilot seat” rather than riding along as a passenger when it comes to making decisions about the dam.
Also on hand to sign the agreements on July 21 was Yukon Energy President and CEO Andrew Hall who called the stories of energy infrastructure developed without the input of First Nations people heartbreaking to him.
Silver called the signing ceremony a proud day for the CAFN citizens present and for Canada, tying the agreements to national conversations around pipelines and other utility corridors.
He said there needs to be a recognition that things need to be done better and the whole country should bet Indigenous governments involved with all aspects of governing. He added that the agreements are a path forward allowing for the long-term use of the generator station as a source of renewable energy Yukoners can rely on.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com