First Nation Youth Experience the Peel Firsthand

July 27, 2015
WHITEHORSE, YUKON ¬- On Friday, Peel First Nation youth completed a 500-kilometre paddling journey that began on the Wind River and finished in Fort McPherson. CPAWS Yukon is thrilled to have offered this experience to five youth: Prairie Dawn Edwards, Ehdiitat Gwichin (Aklavik), Robert Neyando, Gwichya Gwichin (Tsiigehtchic), Bobbi Rose Koe, Tetlit Gwichin (Fort McPherson), Geri Lee Buyck, Nacho Nyak Dun (Mayo) and Dana Tizya-Tram, Vuntut Gwichin (Old Crow).

The youth flew out of Mayo on July 7, following a feast hosted by Nacho Nyak Dun. They spent the next 18 days paddling the clear turquoise waters of the Wind, and dodging swirling boils on the Peel. They hiked to jagged mountaintops and discovered tiny grassy circles where the sheep sleep. They helped each other cook each night, eating everything from pizza and Thai curry to black forest cake and cinnamon buns baked on an open fire. The youth camped on gravel beaches and high mossy spruce-filled banks. They had sheep, caribou and moose as companions on the river and spent their last few nights at a fish camp at Road River, helping to catch, clean and cut fish for drying, as well as pluck black ducks, frying up the guts for breakfast.  They finished the trip with a celebratory feast and dance in Fort McPherson on July 24.

Travelling through one of the world’s last unspoiled wilderness watersheds strengthened the group’s resolve to protect the Peel. Together the youth developed a vision for the future, summarized in the following mission statement:

We, youth of the Peel, deserve 100 percent protection of one of the world’s last pristine watersheds for all generations to come. We will achieve this preservation through education and promotion by engaging in sustainable opportunities.

“Big companies won’t listen to us. But together we cannot be ignored. Our land is our home. Our land has our resources. We cannot eat money.” – Robert Neyando, age 15

“In life I believe it is important to fight for something bigger than ourselves. For me this is the Peel. Paddling those crystal clear waters reinforced my resolve to protect the Peel and I look forward to working alongside these wonderful youth as we continue down this road. I am very optimistic and hopeful that if we stick together we will accomplish great things.” – Geri Lee Buyck, age 24

“People told me this is a once in lifetime experience. But it shouldn’t be. This is a good starting point for us to do more to get our youth out there. All of us, as strong people from our communities, need to come together and plan future trips.” – Bobbi Rose Koe, age 26