Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030, according to a recently passed resolution.
“This now sets a larger canopy for us to be pursuing all available avenues before us,” said Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm. “We can now be looking at green investments, as well. It’s going to have resounding affects for the community.”
The resolution was passed on Aug. 10 at the general assembly. According to the resolution, roughly 1.5 million litres of fossil fuel (diesel, gasoline and aviation fuel) are used in Old Crow each year to provide electricity, heat and transportation, generating greenhouse gases and contributing to climate change.
Vuntut Gwitchin is to look beyond its solar energy project in order to eventually hit the carbon neutral target.
Harnessing wind power is on the table.
“You can’t just look at one” wind generator, Tizya-Tramm said. “We might even be building six.”
The First Nation is also studying biomass.
Vuntut Gwitchin has a large stake in Air North.
Asked what the community will do to compensate for this, Tizya-Tramm said, “See, that’s where the most critical point for our First Nation is, is we’re flying diesel into the community and we’re also tied to the airline industry.
“Our idea is to limit our carbon usage as much as possible.”
There have been discussions about remote controlled air blimps that can transport supplies, he said.
“We’re already thinking about the future. We will explore every opportunity at our disposal, and that’s what this resolution is going to allow us to do, to greatly pursue it because we now have the nod from our community.”
Proposals are to be hashed out then delivered to the federal and territorial governments for endorsement and funding, he said.
“That’s the wonderful thing. Old Crow in the Yukon is leading the way in the country.”
Another passed resolution overlaps with going carbon neutral, Tizya-Tramm said: a suicide prevention strategy.
“Our lands are what made us a healthy and strong people, but as our lands are changing what does that mean for our spiritual, mental and physical health, as well?”
First Nations people in the North are seven times more likely to commit suicide compared to their southern counterparts, Tizya-Tramm said.
“In my mind, they go hand-in-hand.
“We are not getting the wholesome approach that we truly need.”
The mental wellness proposal could include mental health professionals who share jobs and keep a consistent presence in the community, Tizya-Tramm said — to be on hand if there’s an emergency, with a complement of skills to respond.
“This touches upon reconciliation, this touches on every aspect that has been brought forward in national conversations.
“We need the opposite of residential schools. We need constant presence with our youth into their adulthood. We need people supported in their language.”
Vuntut Gwitchin is doubling down on getting people out on the land more often.
“We recently purchased a whole bunch of wall tents.”
Tizya-Tramm said his own parents lost their ability to parent because of residential schools, “then were left in a new world without new world tools.
“When you’re limited from our traditional life, you’re limited in a modern life.”
Vuntut Gwitchin’s decision to rejoin the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) also came out during the general assembly.
“Whenever I speak about this decision, everyone always brings up the past,” Tizya-Tramm said. “When we left CYFN, it was under different leadership and different circumstances, to the point where CYFN was started to occupy self-governing fields. That was a great alarm to our leadership. When you’re beholden to an organization like that it severely limited our abilities to deal with it internally.”
But that was then. Grand Chief Peter Johnston is in charge now.
Johnston wasn’t immediately available for comment.
“He is getting out of the way of our direction and setting up tables and resources to help propel our issues forward,” Tizya-Tramm said of Johnston’s leadership. “When you look at that change of philosophy, there’s really not a lot of harm in rejoining the organization and doubling our efforts in a collective way.”
Vuntut Gwitchin is an associate member, meaning that while party to discussions, it can’t vote.
“This, I guess, is a dipping of the toe.”
Contact Julien Gignac at email@example.com