As the climate warms, Michelle LeMouel worries and wonders if she will be able to take her kids out on the land.
“Especially with being Indigenous, we’re losing our ability to go onto the land and learn these traditional knowledge and skills,” she said.
LeMouel was one of 30 people who attended Ecology North’s 2021 Young Climate Leaders’ Summit about Northern climate change at the B. Dene Adventures Camp from Aug. 17 to 21.
Participants ages 18 to 30 years old listened to experts talk about the effects of changes in the environment.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and it’s very informational and very eye-opening and just being able to participate in this whole project and go out on the land has been another level,” said LeMouel, 21. “Living in the North, you witness first hand these effects on your territory. For example, the past five to 10 years, the ice road is taking a little longer every year to open up and it’s closing a little bit quicker.”
She said she will reassess how she lives her day-to-day life as a result of some of the things she heard during the summit.
“It filters out the impacts of these little things you do on a daily basis. It’s just eye-opening, so you’re kind of more aware of what you’re doing, how you’re doing it but also these big kind of issues that you hear about,” LeMouel said. “They really connect big events that could eventually happen and how it can trickle down to individuals and the effect on their daily life.”
Bridget Larocque, a policy adviser and researcher at the Arctic Athabaskan Council and one of the experts on hand, has been involved in the Young Climate Leaders’ Summit since the event began in 2009. It’s held every second year.
Larocque spoke to the youths about leadership and government and led them through mock Arctic council activities. The participants in the mock council raised issues that impact the climate and discussed what actions would need to be taken to address them.
Reegan Jungkind, 19, said she’s really passionate about climate change and the “well-being of the Northern communities.”
“It’s going to be very helpful in future organizations that we participate in and work together — making connections across the North — and it’s going to make our territories and our work stronger,” she said.
Among the summit’s objectives were to provide opportunities for youths to develop their professional networking with other young Northerners; give them opportunities to connect with the experts and organizations from southern Canada; and to build a network of young Northern leaders that can effectively advocate for climate mitigation and adaptation solutions for their communities.
Richelle Castillo, project officer and events planner at Ecology North, emphasized the safety protocols in place in light of COVID-19.
“Ecology North was cautiously optimistic organizing this year’s Young Leaders’ Summit on Northern Climate Change,” she said. “We planned multiple scenarios. Fortunately, we were able to come together in-person. The safety of our communities, collaborators, Elders, participants and staff is our top priority.”
Everyone involved in this year’s summit is fully-vaccinated, and people who came from outside of Yellowknife went through screening and testing for COVID-19, Castillo added.