All 14 Yukon First Nations along with two regional umbrella organizations — the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Yukon and the Council of Yukon First Nations — have signed a climate change emergency declaration.
AFN Yukon regional chief Kluane Adamek, along with Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm and AFN Yukon’s climate change coordinator and youth representative Emily McDougall, made the announcement at a press conference Feb. 18.
The declaration was signed on the third and final day of the first-ever Yukon First Nations Climate Action Gathering, held in Whitehorse at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.
Representatives from the 14 Yukon First Nations as well as First Nations whose traditional territories include portions of the Yukon — the Taku River Tlingit, for example — attended the gathering.
A youth-specific climate change emergency declaration was also signed the same afternoon.
Neither declaration was made available that day, but the first one has since been posted online to AFN Yukon’s website.
Adamek, Tizya-Tramm and McDougall told reporters that the declarations take a holistic view to addressing climate change, touching on issues that might seem out of the ordinary.
Themes in the youth declaration, for example, include education, food security, the four elements (water, fire, air, earth) and wellness and healing, according to McDougall.
“Because really,” she said, “we can’t heal Mother Nature until we start healing ourselves.”
Adamek emphasized the importance of centring and empowering youth in conversations about climate change, and bridging the gap between new and old knowledge.
“The three of us here are from a different generation,” she said of herself, Tizya-Tramm and McDougall. “You are seeing a new generation of leadership, you’re seeing a new generation of young people saying, ‘We need to do something.’”
The declarations, Adamek also said, will also give Yukon First Nations a united front when participating in national conversations on climate change.
Tizya-Tramm said the declarations serve as a “segue into a more cemented strategy and path forward.”
Some of the next steps, he said, include striking working groups to create an action plan to address things like how to share information between Yukon First Nations and reach out to other nations across the Arctic and Canada.
“We have the vision now, we have a call, so that’s what’s going to be the vacuum to bring us around to create our solid movements forward, to create those principals,” he said. “But ultimately, I think some of the crux of what we’re expressing here is that the ability to deny climate change is a luxury and it’s not a luxury that we are afforded as northern Yukon First Nations … It is up to us to recognize and position ourselves to assimilate what is being expressed by our waters, our lands, our air and forest fires around the world to create that solution.”
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