Canoe trip strengthens youths' resolve to protect Peel watershed

A 500-kilometre paddling trip on the Wind and Peel Rivers in northeast Yukon aimed to increased the desire of First Nation youth to protect the Peel watershed.

Five participants from Peel watershed First Nations complete 18-day river journey

Prairie Dawn Edmunds and Bobbi Rose Koe got their feet wet on a 500-kilometre canoe trip on the Wind and Peel rivers in the Yukon. (Submitted by CPAWS)

Five First Nation youth have successfully completed a 500-kilometre paddling trip on the Wind and Peel Rivers in northeast Yukon.

"People told me this is a once in a lifetime experience. But it shouldn't be," said Bobbie Rose Koe, 26, from Fort McPherson, N.W.T. Koe was one of five youth on the trip. 

"This is a good starting point for us to do more to get our youth out there," she said. 

The 18-day trip was organized by the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, a group that, along with several First Nations, took the Yukon government to court last year over it's Peel watershed land use planning process. 

Mayo resident Geri Lee Buyck says the canoe trip strengthened her resolve to protect the Peel. (Karen McColl/CBC)
Geri Lee Buyck of Mayo, Yukon, said the value of water struck a chord for her on the trip. 

"... Just how clear and pristine and clean it was overall," said the 24-year-old. The water aspect for me is why I want to continue learning and understanding the Peel and encouraging others to do the same."

The group will continue to promote the protection of the peel watershed through education and promotion, says a mission statement they created on the trip. 

The canoeists were welcomed in Fort McPherson with a celebratory feast and dance on July 24, after 18 days of paddling, hiking and camping.

In addition to Koe and Buyck, the participants were Prairie Dawn Edwards from Aklavik, N.W.T., Robert Neyando from Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., and Dana Tizya-Tram of Old Crow, Yukon. They ranged in age from 15 to 28.

The B.C. Court of Appeal will hear the Yukon government's appeal of the earlier ruling on the Peel watershed land use plan in mid-August.  

'Our land is our home. Our land has our resources. We cannot eat money,' said Robert Neyando, 15, in a written statement issued by the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. (Submitted by CPAWS)


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