By: Brandy Mayes
Over the last few years, the Kwanlin Dün First Nation has been a part of the Southern Lakes Caribou Relationship Planning process with eight other governments.
This plan comes from the successful Southern Lakes Caribou Recovery Program that was in place since the early 2000s. At that time, there were estimated to be less than 1,000 caribou remaining. This is a drastic decline from the stories we hear from Elders and those that came before us.
Our sacrifices and stewardship over the last few decades have been working. We are seeing positive signs of caribou on the landscape in greater numbers.
We have one of the few recovering caribou herds in the world. But we are at a critical point as caribou still face many stresses that can limit their successful recovery.
These stressors include:
• highway mortality;
• habitat loss due to residential or industrial development;
• predators; and
• unreported and unregulated harvest.
Our Nations are concerned that if we are not careful, all of our past sacrifices and recovery efforts will be erased.
KDFN, in partnership with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Teslin Tlingit Council, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Taku River Tlingit, Government of BC, Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada (Parks Canada) have been working to ensure the continued recovery of the herd and to reestablish our relationship with caribou.
With COVID-19 restrictions making public meetings difficult, we have been doing our best by talking with Elders, meeting online and keeping conversations going over the last few years. What we realize more than anything, is that we have lost or are slowly losing our connection to caribou. We need to reestablish this relationship with caribou and speak for the caribou. What would the caribou want? What does reestablishing this relationship with caribou mean to us as Kwanlin Dün?
Elders, youth, citizens, and leadership need to have a voice and help us make important decisions about the future of our relationship with Southern Lakes caribou. The planning efforts have identified ceremony, harvest, youth education, communications, traditional knowledge, and research and monitoring as important.
In 2022, we will have a draft caribou plan for review. We will have a website, newsletters, videos, and when possible, we will host meetings to spread the word and gather your perspectives on Southern Lakes caribou. We need to make sure the plan reflects the relationship the Kwanlin Dün would like to have with caribou now and in future generations.
To stay informed and get involved please reach out to Brandy Mayes, Operations Manager at KDFN Heritage, Lands and Resources, at Brandy.Mayes@kdfn.net or 867-336-3316.