Yukon First Nations climate action fellows celebrate graduation

There was celebration and ceremony at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday as the First Nations climate action fellows marked their graduation.

Reconnecting with the land at the heart of climate action plan

A group of young people stand across a stage in a conference room. On the far right, an older gentleman stands with a microphone in hand.
The Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellows at their program graduation on Wednesday. The youth are from communities across the Yukon and Northern B.C. (Leslie Amminson/CBC)

There was celebration and ceremony at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday as the First Nations climate action fellows marked their graduation.

Thirteen young people from across the Yukon and Northern B.C. graduated from the fellowship program after almost two years of meeting together and working on a climate action plan, with the help of a steering committee.

"We have been tasked by Yukon First Nations leadership to create a climate action plan that really reflects our worldview, and how we see ourselves in relationship with the land," said fellow Jewel Davies (Yekhunashîn Khatuku), a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

"We often see climate plans that are very heavily focused on carbon emissions, and solutions based in consumption, such as electric vehicles or solar panels. And those just don't go deep enough."

A young woman stands against a wall indoors. She is smiling and dressed in formal clothing.
Jewel Davies (Yekhunashîn Khatuku), one of the climate action fellows, at the program's graduation on Wednesday. Davies says the group tried to go beyond a human-focused approach to climate change. (Leslie Amminson/CBC)

The fellows were joined at Wednesday's event by family and friends, members of their communities as well as Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston and Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Kluane Adamek.

They were presented with regalia following their climate action presentation, and were recognized as leaders in their communities.

The youth leaders presented a "reconnection vision" ahead of their graduation ceremony. That vision includes reconnecting with the land and moving away from an anthropocentric — or human-focused — view of the world. 

That means asking questions like "how do we help the salmon thrive?" instead of "how much salmon can we take?", as Shauna Yeomans-Lindstrom (Geehaadastee) explained during the presentation.

These themes will also play a big role in a forthcoming climate action plan prepared by the fellows. That's expected to be released in the coming weeks and delivered to governments across the Yukon.

The action plan looks at a number of different topics, like governance, education, food sovereignty and resource extraction.

Skaydu.û (whose name is Autumn Jules in English), one of the youth fellows and a member of the Teslin Tlingit Council, said the group took a different approach to both the fellowship program and the plan.

"It's actually been not a typical fellowship," she said. "It's based off traditional knowledge, two-eyed seeing, seeing the world with both our traditional ways of knowing and being and that Western way, and actually using both."

A young woman stands against a wall, smiling. She has long dark hair and is dressed in formal clothing.
Skaydu.û, whose name is Autumn Jules in English, says the fellows tried to consult community members about what they wanted to see in a climate plan. (Leslie Amminson/CBC)

She said the fellows reached out to communities across the Yukon for input on what they wanted to see in a plan. That meant organizing meetings with both elders and youth.

"We can't speak for a lot of the people within our communities without actually working and consulting them and being able to get that voice from our ancestors for future generations."


Leslie Amminson is a reporter for CBC Yukon based in Whitehorse. She previously worked as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. You can reach Leslie with story tips and ideas at