'Humbled beyond words,' Dana Tizya-Tramm becomes chief of Vuntut Gwitchin

An emotional swearing-in ceremony in Old Crow, Yukon, on Friday put the focus on youth in the community.

Swearing in ceremony in Old Crow, Yukon, on Friday put focus on youth

Dana Tizya-Tramm is sworn in as chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on Friday. (Alexandra Byers/CBC)

It was emotional moment for Dana Tizya-Tramm, as he assumed leadership of Yukon's Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow.

The former councillor and president of Youth of the Peel was elected chief in November and sworn in to office on Friday. At 31, he is believed to be the youngest chief the First Nation has ever had.

"I'm so humbled beyond words, that for the rest of my life I will live up to this honour," Tizya-Tramm said in a speech after being sworn in.

Three new council members — Cheryl Joyce Charlie, Marvin Frost Jr., and Brandy Star Tizya — also took office today.

Tizya-Tramm said after his election last fall that a key goal for him as leader is empowering young Indigenous people. Friday's ceremony underlined that priority, as every speaker mentioned the importance of youth.   

Tizya-Tramm teared up when it came his turn to speak. He paid tribute to his ancestors, including his mother and his late uncle, the former Vuntut Gwitchin chief Joe Linklater. 

"Behind each one of us is an incredible family, a beautiful community and a wonderful people. This is our nation," he said.

"We continue to stand on our ancient lands, but now in a new world. As we break this trail, now through legal and political landscapes, we shall have no fear, we shall have no doubt, for the fires of our people continue to burn brightly."

Vuntut Gwithcin First Nation chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, at his swearing in ceremony in Old Crow, Yukon, Jan. 2019. (Alexandra Byers/CBC)

Tizya-Tramm moved back to his home community of Old Crow from Vancouver several years ago, focusing his energies on youth programs like Our Voices, which provides experiential learning for Indigenous youth.

The three new councillors are also relatively young, something that Tizya-Tramm has said is very exciting. 

"I hope this is a signal to other First Nations youth, and youth in general ... that there is a place for you in your governments," he said, earlier.

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is based in Old Crow, Yukon's northernmost community. (Alexandra Byers/CBC)

Tizya-Tramm has also said he plans to focus on bolstering current government structures to better serve Vuntut Gwitchin members in Old Crow and elsewhere, as well as create more transparency.

Tizya-Tramm will serve a four-year term.