A Yukon-based outfitter and Teetl’it Gwich’in woman has won the 2021 Canadian River Heritage Award.
Bobbi Rose Koe was recognized for her leadership on both environmental campaigns and on-the-land programming for youth.
The Canadian River Heritage Award is presented every two years and “recognizes the invaluable efforts of an individual Canadian to celebrate, protect and conserve river heritage for future generations.”
Koe was chosen for this year’s award by the Canadian Canoe Museum and the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, who presented her with the award at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on Dec. 6.
“Bobbi Rose Koe was recognized for her dedication to the preservation and promotion of Teetl’it Gwich’in traditional ties to the Peel River watershed and for her tireless and exemplary work as an organizer, community member, and advocate for youth engagement in river conservation and connection,” reads the release from the two organizations.
“Bobbi Rose Koe is a shining example of what can be achieved to preserve and protect rivers and watersheds through collaboration and advocacy. The Canadian Heritage Rivers System and Canadian Canoe Museum are pleased to recognize her many years of exemplary leadership and important work,” it continues.
There are 40 heritage rivers that are part of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, which include the Yukon the Alsek, Thirty Mile (on the Yukon River), Bonnet Plume and Tatshenshini.
The award was first presented in 1994 and is meant to recognize a lifetime achievement in river conservation.
Koe is originally from Fort McPherson and began her leadership training at 15 when she joined the 2007 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition. On a trip up the Wind River in 2015, sponsored by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, she teamed up with fellow participants and created the Youth of the Peel.
Since then she has been an outspoken advocate for the protection and recognition of Indigenous culture, caribou, land and water. She has also helped organize on-the-land trips for Indigenous youth in the territory.
Earlier this year, with the permission of her elders, Koe launched her own outfitter called Dinjii Zhuh. She is now leading personalized river trips in Gwich’in territory in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
“I actually don’t know where it started, maybe traveling in the mountains, cooking fish to the fire, hearing an elder share stories, hauling wood to keep our family warm, or having a feeling of something missing – but overall I am ultimately here, a Teetl’it Gwich’in because of My People, family, friends, land, water, vadzaih/caribou,” Koe writes in her blog. “And doing what we can today for our youth tomorrow.”
“Dinjii Zhuh Adventures is an opportunity to bring you into beautiful and meaningful places, whether it’s in my traditional territory or yours. It makes all the difference, not only to us but our ancestors and future generations,” she said.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org