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Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm on the environment

Headshot of Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm from the shoulders up. He is wearing a blue vest with blue and white beaded decorations, a button-down shirt and a blue and white beaded necklace.

March 17, 2021

“Nature is the most efficient and advanced technology that exists – nothing is more sophisticated than nature.” — Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm

On February 9th, Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm of the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation in the Yukon Territory engaged in a 90-minute discussion with Professor Kevin Turner, UW’s 2020-21 Fulbright Canada Chair in Arctic Studies. The discussion looked at the environment as one of our most effective universities and nature as the most advanced technology ever designed.

But the Arctic landscape is changing dramatically as a result of rising temperatures. In early May 2019 the UK was the first nation-state to declare a climate change emergency; later that month, the Gwich’in First Nation was the first Indigenous community to draft a similar declaration–Yeendoo Diinehdoo Ji’heezrit Nits’oo Ts’o’ Nan He’aa (or After Our Time, How Will the World Be?). Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm of the Vuntut Gwich’in Government, the youngest person to hold the title, declared a climate change state of emergency.  The declaration calls on all levels of government to respect the traditional knowledge of Indigenous people, science and “utilize all available powers, resources and abilities to coordinate and mobilize efforts” to prevent temperatures from rising further.

To the climate change emergency are added the issues now facing the Porcupine Caribou Herd particularly with the recent auctioning off of portion of the National Wildlife Refuge to oil developers. In addition to the impact this development will have on global warming, the Vuntut Gwich’in community of Old Crow is located on the migratory path of the Porcupine Caribou. As a result, the caribou have played a key role in the economy and culture for thousands of years. However, for Tizya-Tramm, the hopeful part about these challenges is that they “call on the foundation of our great country of Canada’s intention for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to become one nation together for all of our grandchildren.”

Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm was elected Chief of the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation in November of 2018 and took office January of 2019. According to a recent article in UpHere today, at 32, Tizya-Tramm is a leading voice on how climate change is impacting the North. He travels the world hoping to inspire other Indigenous land and water protectors. “He is charismatic, and he is convincing. He is, as one Vuntut Gwich’in citizen puts it, ‘exactly what we need right now.’”

Watch the recorded conversation here: https://youtu.be/Vhou96D83B4

This five-part series was co-sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies; the Consulate General of Canada in Seattle; the World Affairs Council, Seattle; the Center for Global Studies in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at UW; the Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at UW; and the Center for Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University.