Most of the Yukon Territory is covered by the Yukon River watershed, fed by glacial lakes that flow into the Yukon River system, which is home to diverse species, including salmon. The Salmon people, who are made up of 14 Yukon First Nations, are the stewards and the Indigenous peoples of this land and continue to have a deep connection with salmon.
Canada is home to nearly 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater (Statistics Canada, 2018), which is an ideal environment for salmon. However, Yukon salmon populations have been declining for decades. For generations of Salmon People, this means losing a connection with their culture, especially with increasingly rare summer fish camps, where knowledge and practices are passed down.
In this episode of the Canadian Mountain Podcast, Chief Nicole Tom of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation and Elizabeth MacDonald, Manager of Fisheries at Yukon First Nation Salmon Stewardship Alliance, discuss the history of the Yukon salmon and Salmon People, the multiple factors behind their declines, such as commercial overharvesting, industrial mining and climate change and ultimately, how to move forward. Chief Tom and Elizabeth discuss community-led solutions, conciliatory management, Western science and Indigenous knowledge to revitalize the salmon population and connect the Salmon People to their heritage and the salmon.