Community History – The History of Our People
Beaver Creek (Lat. 62°23’27’’N; Long. 140°53’35”W) is located along the Alaska Highway and is just a few kilometres away from the Alaska border (see map). Beaver Creek is home to about 100 people, half of which are from the White River First Nation. Historically, the area around Beaver Creek was used seasonally by members of the Upper Tanana. In the 1900’s, surveyors settled in the area to chart out the Yukon/Alaska border thereby establishing a permanent community, which was also used during the construction of the Alaska Highway in the 1940’s (Yukon Communities, 2004).
The total number of the White River First Nation is approximately 220, although many live outside the community of Beaver Creek. The White River First Nation is made up of both the Upper Tanana people of Alaska and the Northern Tutchone people to the south and east. The Upper Tanana traditional area extends deep into the Alaskan interior and into the Yukon’s midwestern section. The White River First Nation is one of the 3 First Nations in the Yukon who have not negotiated a land claim or self government agreement.
Project Summary – How We Are Leading the Way
The White River First Nation located in Beaver Creek, Yukon is concerned about potential climate change impacts on our people with respect to food availability and storage. Our community does not have a local food store making us particularly vulnerable to food-related emergencies. This is particularly the case if the Alaska Highway, our main access route and means by which our community is able to access food from outside our community, is closed due to climate change impacts such as flooding, severe storms, road instability because of permafrost melt, a medical quarantine, or for any other reason. Our reliance on food from outside our community may have significant implications on our health and our ability to eat healthy foods should our food supplies be interrupted.
White River First Nation is interested in exploring options for food storage based on output by existing facilities such as our garden and greenhouse. Further, while much of our community continues to rely on traditional foods such as moose, caribou, fish, berries, and others, we do not have a community-based means to preserve these or any other foods. We have identified this as an area of vulnerability for our community in terms of being able to provide the community with healthy traditional foods in the off-season, or in difficult times with limited harvest.
Through this project, the White River First Nation aimed to accomplish the following objectives:
- Build a food storage facility for emergency use and
- Build a food storage facility for general use (e.g. traditional foods, meat from outfitters, etc.)
Working With Community
- To work with the community of Beaver Creek to determine the desire to develop two storage facilities for food: one for general storage (e.g. for traditional foods, meat from outfitters, etc.) and one for emergency-based storage. Community interviews will also take place to determine historic methods for traditional food storage.
- Given a positive response by community members, to build these storage facilities using a culvert storage system.
- To work with our existing greenhouse to determine the possibility of preserving fresh fruits and vegetables for our storage facility.
The second phase of this project, whose funding will come from a source external to Health Canada, which will take place in 2011- 2012 is to house the storage facilities with freezers for use in warmer months.
Capacity Building – Connecting the Guidance of the Past with the Needs of Today
We aimed to provide our community members with work in educational and constructive projects that increase their knowledge about food security and climate change. There’s no better way to do this than to start in our own backyard with our own traditional knowledge holders.
The long-term objectives of this project include:
- Increase the self sufficiency of the community of Beaver Creek by providing a means by which the community can store foods both seasonally and in case of an emergency.
- To work with community members to increase their knowledge about future climate change impacts.
- To promote relationships in the community by introducing a community freezer.
Next Steps –How We Are Adapting to Climate Change
Due to unforeseen challenges, phase I was unable to be fully completed, however, we are continuing with the completion of the “Feed our Community Project” by seeking additional resources from the Community Development funding program.
- All was not wasted. What came out of this project was the ability to build capacity and we learnt a more efficient way of how to proceed with digging the construction foundation for the food storage structure.
- Gained self assurance and a belief in our ability to succeed in the future.