‘Big message’: Northern delegates bring Indigenous, youth perspective to COP27

Carissa Waugh said her family has been unable to set nets like they used to because of declining salmon populations in the Yukon.

“In doing so, we’re losing touch with our culture,” said the 29-year-old, who also goes by the North Tuchin name Eke Ewe.

“We can’t set that net, and we can’t teach the younger generation how to set the net, how to get the fish out of the net, how to fillet the fish and feed the community.”

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said 12,025 Chinook salmon entered Canada last summer, where they spawn. This is the lowest number on record and well below the 42,500 to 55,000 fish target set in the deal between Canada and the United States.

The Waughis Taku River belongs to the Tlingit Aboriginal people of the Crow Clan, and the lineage of the Carmack Aboriginal people of the sockeye salmon. She is a Yukon Aboriginal Climate Action Fellowship Fellow and one of several Indigenous and youth delegates from the Yukon and Northwest Territories travelling to the United Nations Climate Conference (also known as COP27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, to share how they Witness firsthand how their communities are being impacted by climate change.

“My big message is that we need to invest in our Indigenous youth,” she said.

Jocelyn Joe-Strack, also known as Daqualama, is a member of the Champagne and Ashishik Aboriginal Wolf Nation, Chair of Indigenous Knowledge Studies at Yukon University and co-leader of the Yukon Aboriginal Climate Action Fellowship. She said she spoke in several panel discussions at COP27 about how Yukon First Nations were at the forefront of self-determination.

“Just being able to show the strength and potential of giving Aboriginal people their rights and being able to make decisions that keep young people and future generations in mind,” she said.

Joe-Strack said she was interested in learning about solutions to climate change that focus on “getting back to being human.”

“I think really focusing on solutions to reduce emissions, electric vehicles, measurable, tangible, still expecting to keep the status quo and not make any real changes to the root causes, which is our unbalanced way of life.”

Monique Chapman, who grew up in Yellowknife and is from the Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, said that when she learned she had been selected to be part of the NWT delegation to At COP27, she was shocked and humbled.

“We’re a small part of Canada and the world, but we’re going through a lot of impact,” she said. “Hopefully showing faces to those who are trying to help with this problem or help find a solution will help generate more support.”

Chapman, 26, who works as a waste reduction analyst for the territorial government, said she was passionate about youth engagement. She studied marine biology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and said she hopes to continue her education to pursue science communication.

“It’s really important to understand how to educate the public about climate change and the public’s role and how everyone can get involved.”

Reegan Jungkind, who grew up in Hay River in the Northwest Territories and is studying political science, sociology and sustainable development at the University of Alberta, said she cried “about three hours” when she learned she was going to Egypt. She said she was looking forward to meeting people and bringing what she learned back to her community.

“I wish I could bring the voices of northern youth,” she said.

“No one really understands the northern point of view or thinks about it in a different context.”

Jungkind, 20, said that when she recently participated in a youth ambassador program in New York, representatives from other countries were shocked to learn that the North was being affected by climate change because they thought it was a problem in the South.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference will take place from 6 to 18 November and will focus on adaptation to climate change, building resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

NWT and Yukon delegations are co-chairing a panel discussion on climate adaptation and resilience in Northern Canada. Several Yukon representatives also participated in panels at PEI and BC to discuss Canada’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Rebecca Turpin, director of the Yukon Climate Change Secretariat, said the meeting was “unusual” because world leaders have made statements about countries not acting fast enough on climate change. Efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions will not be enough to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C by the end of the century, says a new UN climate change report

“I’m optimistic because I feel like this is an opportunity for us to really seize the opportunity and stop waiting for real investment, especially for the north, in transportation and heating,” Turpin said, adding that these are the main sources of emissions in the region .


This story was produced with funding from Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emily Black, Canadian Press

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