OLD CROW, Yukon — Perched on the edge of the Porcupine river, Dana Tizya-Tramm pointed upstream to a stand of jack pines that jutted into the partially-frozen water. The trees 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.
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 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.