The northern Yukon First Nation chiefs are calling three priorities to the attention of the new territorial government.
Dana Tizya-Tramm of Vuntut Gwitchin, Roberta Joseph of Tr‘ondëk Hwëch’in, and Simon Mervyn of Na-Cho Nyak Dun met this month.
“Really, this is about joint action and collaboration among the most northern First Nations. I think this is an indication and reflection of our deep ties as a nation,” said Tizya-Tramm.
“As modern treaty First Nations we wield a lot of power, but when we conglomerate over these unifying keystones for our communities this is where we can really increase our capacities and look at those simple solutions that we all face together.”
The three northern chiefs identified three issues of priority: the Dawson Regional Land Use Plan, oil and gas activity and drugs and alcohol.
Tizya-Tramm said all three issues are longstanding and weighted equally.
Dawson Regional Land Use Plan
The chiefs were united in wanting the development of collaborative land use plans within their traditional territories, and are seeking the opportunity to present to the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission on the urgency of climate change in the region.
“When all of our First Nations face industry by ourselves it takes a lot of capacity,” said Tizya-Tramm. “When we create these conduits between our governments, we strengthen ourselves.”
The three chiefs concluded that climate change is occurring at an unprecedented rate with impacts on rivers, harvest patterns, wildlife and the “spiritual, cultural, mental and physical well-being of First Nations people,” according to a press release issued by the three nations.
“Land use planning has to be a priority for not just the Yukon, but the Canadian government,” said Tizya-Tramm. “Land use planning, we see as a major vision not just for the Yukon, but for the entire country. The northern chiefs are really reflecting a greater opportunity for the country.”
Oil and gas activity
Oil and gas issues affecting the chiefs’ respective communities were discussed concerning aging wells and Chance Oil and Gas Limited’s outstanding lawsuit against the Yukon government over the 2015 fracking moratorium.
The Chiefs reaffirmed their stance on fracking.
“We do not support and do not advocate fracking,” said Tizya-Tramm. “This is something that is ubiquitous across First Nations.”
The three chiefs also reaffirmed their commitments to uphold the “standard of free, prior, and informed consent, guided by the treaties and land use planning, to ensure the fundamental objective of sustainable development enshrined in their treaties is respected by government and industry.”
In working with the Yukon government, the chiefs remain committed to addressing shared priorities relating to the sustainable development of oil and gas resources.
Drugs and alcohol
The struggles of the chiefs’ respective communities with drugs and alcohol were discussed and the belief in on-the-land programming was reiterated.
They’re prepared to work together on community-led initiatives and lobby for increased awareness for community-specific issues.
“This is a First Nations based led effort to bringing together and galvanizing our health and social departments,” said Tizya-Tramm. “We are looking at things like a youth healing conference where all the youth of Mayo, Old Crow and Dawson can come together and begin these conversations for themselves.”
Although the issues are complex, Tizya-Tramm said the First Nations aren’t practicing anything new.
“This is us practicing our traditions in a new world,” said Tizya-Tramm. “We aren’t afraid of this new world but the question we are facing is how are our principles going to guide how we wield modern tools today?
“Nothing will replace the value of our people coming together again and pulling fish, hunting together, and having these conversations.”
The meeting, said Tizya-Tramm, was a way for the chiefs to stand by their beliefs.
“These forums are the opportunity for us to stand by our convictions and honour our elders in the thread that permeates all First Nations which is the protections of our lands and our animals,” said Tizya-Tramm.
Contact John Tonin at email@example.com