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Yukon Salmon

Indigenous and Western Knowledge Systems to Revitalize Connection to Yukon Salmon Culture

Biocultural Place:

Yukon is a place of glaciers, mountains, rivers, and connections. There are 14 distinct Yukon First Nations, 11 of whom are self-governing and all of whom are Salmon People. Salmon are embedded in every culture in the Yukon and currently, that culture is threatened by climate change, overharvesting, habitat loss, and their interactive effects. All Yukon salmon are in a period of long-term decline with fish camps sitting empty and numerous voluntary restrictions and closures across all Yukon watersheds. The long-term decline in the returns and size of Yukon salmon across Yukon watersheds has mirrored corresponding losses in Yukon First Nations’ salmon culture and highlighted the inadequacies of relying solely on Western science to find solutions. The current status quo in colonized management structures are failing salmon and the ecosystems that depend upon them. Reconnection and revitalization of this reciprocal relationship and a balance between Indigenous knowledge and Western science are now required to support the stewardship of restoration of Yukon salmon.


Knowledge Leaders:

  • Elizabeth MacDonald, Manager of Fisheries at the Yukon First Nation Salmon Stewardship Alliance and Council of Yukon First Nations.

  • Fiona Schmiegelow, Professor, Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sci - Renewable Resources Dept


Knowledge Collaborators:

  • Jocelyn Joe-Strack, Knowledge Mobilization Research Chair, Yukon University

  • Andrea Reid Organization Asst. Professor, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries / Principal Investigator, Centre for Indigenous Fisheries Institute, University of British Columbia/ Co-Founder, Riparia Expeditions, University of British Columbia

  • Fiona Schmiegelow, Professor, University of Alberta

  • Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle, Conservation Planning Biologist, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

  • Merran Smith, Community Climate Adaptation Liaison, Council of Yukon First Nations

  • Ben Schonewille, Fisheries Biologist, EDI Environmental Dynamics, Inc.

  • Heidi Swanson, Fish & Wildlife Program Coordinator, Ta’an Kwächän Council

  • Natasha Ayoub, Fish and Wildlife Coordinator, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in

  • Melina Hougen, Fish and Wildlife Manager, Champagne Aishihik First Nation

  • Brandy Mayes, Operations Manager of Heritage Lands and Resources, Kwanlin Dün First Nation  


Other Collaborating Organizations:

  • Yukon First Nations Salmon Stewardship Alliance,

  • Yukon University, University of British Columbia

  • University of Alberta

  • Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, EDI Environmental Dynamics, Inc.

  • University of Waterloo

  • Teslin Tlingit Council

  • Ta’an Kwächän Council

  • Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in

  • Champagne Aishihik First Nation

  • Kwanlin Dün First Nation


Hub Focus and Goals:

The hub will identify pathways to include Indigenous Knowledge more meaningfully in salmon governance processes to contribute to decolonized and reconciliatory management of species, lands, and water.

Ecological and cultural restoration, reclamation, and revitalization are the primary goals of the proposed process and will be supported continuously through efforts to honour connections between salmon, ecosystems, and culture. Through reconnecting Yukon First Nations with salmon culture through shared ceremony, land-based learning opportunities, and knowledge transfer activities in all aspects of the proposed work. The proposed project emphasizes established connections between linguistic and biological diversity and will centralize the role of Indigenous languages. Results from this project will enable YFNs to present an alternative governance model that supports reconciliation, decolonization, and Two-Eyed Seeing. Research efforts in this hub will serve to synthesize past and current monitoring and observation efforts underway throughout watersheds and will identify priority areas in need of monitoring and other forms of research or stewardship. The bulk of project funds will support the Annual Salmon Ceremony and Gathering events. The gatherings will centralize the role of First Nations salmon culture, stories, and ceremonies, and will weave project activities, including research and restoration efforts, into appropriate relationships that support biocultural revitalization. The Annual Salmon Ceremony and Gathering will catalyze a critical approach to centralizing the role of Yukon First Nations leadership in salmon research, stewardship, and management.

2021 Annual Meeting Presentation

The Council of Yukon First Nations’ Yukon First Nation Salmon Stewardship Alliance (YFNSSA) hosted the first Annual Salmon Ceremony and Gathering on February 21st and 22nd. The ceremony and gathering are the focus of the Yukon Salmon Knowledge Hub, a three-year initiative funded by CMN. This Knowledge Hub is made up of Yukon First Nations, knowledge keepers, youth, academic, non-profit, and industry partners. The event featured youth and Elders sharing ceremony, songs, stories, language, and wisdom that will help support Yukon salmon in the future.

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