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Thu Nov 4, 2021, 11:53 AM

He's the youngest Chief in his First Nation's history. Now he's leading their fight against climate

He’s the youngest Chief in his First Nation’s history. Now he’s leading their fight against climate change.

Perched on the edge of the Porcupine river, Dana Tizya-Tramm pointed upstream to a stand of black spruce trees that jutted into the partially-frozen water. They were like lemmings marching off a cliff. Those at the tip were falling into the river, while those in back awaited the inevitable.

“Drunken forests,” said Tizya-Tramm, a cigarette between his fingers. He says neither he nor the elders remember there being such a pronounced lean in the past. It comes at least in part, he explained, because the earth no longer stays frozen year-round, even so far north.

This stretch of the Porcupine runs past the approximately 250-person community of Old Crow. The most northwest habitation in Canada — roughly 80 miles above the Arctic Circle — the town sits at the heart of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. September temperatures had already dropped below freezing, and Tizya-Tramm buttressed himself with tan moose hide mittens and a black puffy jacket. Embroidered on the right sleeve was “Chief.”

At just 34 years old, Tizya-Tramm has risen not only through elected ranks, but from the depths of addiction and trauma to become the youngest known leader in the First Nation’s history. And he’s used that mandate to aggressively combat what he says is among the most pressing threats to his people: climate change.

The shifting Arctic is squeezing the Vuntut Gwitchin on multiple fronts. Tizya-Tramm says less predictable caribou migration patterns have meant some villages can go years without a successful hunt, and the spawn of certain salmon species has dropped so low that fishing has been severely restricted in recent years.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/interactive/2021/climate-change-chief-dana-tizya-tramm/

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