Northern Canadians in action
Canada’s North makes up nearly 40 percent of the country’s entire land mass but is very sparsely populated. As of 2010, only about 111,500 people call Canada’s North home. Over half the population of the three territories is aboriginal, either Inuit, First Nations or Métis, and many watershed stewardship programs in the North are run by these communities.
For example, the following Council of Yukon First Nations members conduct watershed stewardship projects:
- Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (stewardship in the Porcupine River Watershed)
- Teslin Tlingit Council (stream stewardship in the Teslin River Watershed)
- Ta’an Kwach’an Council (habitat restoration on McIntyre Creek/Yukon River MainStream Watershed)
- Selkirk Renewable Resources Council (stream stewardship in the Mica, Needlerock, Willow Creeks/Pelly River Watershed)
- Kwanlin Dün First Nation (stream stewardship in the White River Watershed)
- Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (stream stewardship in the Nordenskiold River/Yukon River Mid-mainstream Watershed.
In the sparsely populated North, intergovernmental collaboration is key. The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, which is made up of 70 First Nations and Tribes in the Yukon and Alaska, is dedicated to protecting and conserving the Yukon River Watershed. Its remit is simple: “To be able to drink water directly from the Yukon River.” To that end, the Council conducts an annual Healing Journey in the river’s watershed. The journey is a marriage of modern science and traditional knowledge. It logs scientific data of the river using state-of-the-art technology, while engaging local youth in understanding and caring about man’s relationship to the natural world.
Among the main concerns in the North are the continual effect of climate change on the region’s hydrology, increasing temperatures and higher precipitation. Northern rivers, in particular, may be impacted by permafrost melting and changes in their flood cycles.
Protection of intact ecosystems is also a primary concern on the conservation front. While the largest tracts of Canada’s wilderness exist in the northern territories, threats from mining and industry are major.
The Peel River Watershed, located in the Yukon on the traditional lands of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun and the Tetlit Gwich’in Council, accounts for 14 percent of the territory’s land and is an exemplar of pristine wild mountain rivers, woodland caribou populations and Canada’s boreal forest. This is one of the largest ecosystems remaining in North America. Conservation groups, such as the Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and Yukoners have mobilized to gain territorial park protection for swaths of this wilderness, creating special conservation zones around remaining tracts of land.
This piece features a scrollbar of images giving a look into how the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council is helping to conserve and protect the Yukon River Watershed. These images are supported by narrated explanation.