The annual Haines Junction Mountain Festival was founded in 2016 in response to the UN’s International Mountain Day (Dec 11) celebrations around the world. Our festival celebrates our mountain lands and culture in all its forms – First Nations culture, traditional knowledge, story telling, outdoor adventure, recreation, science, research, workshops, arts, live music, film, and shared food.
INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN DAY (DEC 11)
Mountains make up one-quarter of Canada’s land-mass and are home to unique ecosystems and iconic wildlife, such as grizzly bears, caribou, mountains goats and sheep. Mountain regions are also the traditional homelands of Indigenous Peoples and the sites of many cultures and traditions.
Mountains are highly vulnerable ecosystems that provide important resources, such as freshwater and timber, to more than half the world’s population. Mountain systems face unique and unprecedented threats to their sustainability, which include resource development, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, natural disasters and climate change impacts. All relate to human impacts and our relationship to the natural environment.
In response to the urgent need to call attention to the importance of mountains to life, in 2003 the United Nations (UN) declared December 11 as “International Mountain Day.” International Mountain Day (IMD) is dedicated to raising awareness about opportunities and challenges facing mountain regions, as well as building alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and places around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN is the coordinating agency for the global observance of International Mountain Day, and the UN Mountain Partnership acts as international facilitator.
The year 2019 is a crucial time to highlight climate change action, and mountains are an important part of the discussion. As global temperatures rise, mountain glaciers are melting at a rapid pace. Recent estimates suggest that over 80% of Canada’s mountain glaciers, the source of many of Canada’s great prairie, Pacific, and northern rivers, will disappear this century. This is of serious concern as mountain headwaters supply 60-80% of all freshwater resources on earth.
THE CANADIAN MOUNTAIN NETWORK
The Canadian Mountain Network (CMN) was established in 2019 to support the resilience and health of Canada’s mountain peoples and places through research partnerships based on Indigenous and Western ways of knowing that inform decision-making and action.
CMN is generously supported by Canada’s research granting agencies through a five-year, $18.3 million grant from the Networks of Centres of Excellence program. Combined with contributions from diverse partner organizations, this funding represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to position Canada as a global leader in mountain systems research at a time when Canada’s mountain systems are undergoing rapid and uncertain change.
CMN will focus time, effort, and resources on activities that fall within four reinforcing and supportive program strategies aligned with the NCE Program Criteria – specifically:
The Yukon Government is a Sustaining Partner providing annual core funding and support for CMN.
Several projects, some lead by Yukon First Nation communities and others co-lead by Canadian University researchers, have been funded and are now active in Yukon.
HAINES JUNCTION AND KLUANE NATIONAL PARK AND RESERVE
Looking beyond the festival, Haines Junction is the gateway to the Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada. Not only is our area a mountainous region but it is indeed among the most unique mountainous regions on the planet.
The park itself comprises an area of some 22,061 square kilometres which, contiguous on the ground with the Wrangle-St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks in the United States, and the Tatshenshini-Alsek parkin Yukon and British Columbia form the largest terrestrial based UNESCO World Heritage Site on earth with a combined area of 97,520 square kilometres [some 24.3 million acres.]
The Statement of Significance description of the park provides that Kluane:
- Is home to the largest non-polar icefields in the world
- Is home to some the world’s longest and most spectacular glaciers
- Transitions from northern interior to coastal biogeoclamatic zones
- Hosts high biodiversity with plant and animal communities ranging from marine, coastal forest, montane, sub-alpine and alpine tundra, all in various successional stages
- Hosts the Tatshenshini and Alsek river valleys which are pivotal because they allow ice-free linkages from coast to interior for plant and animal migration
- Demonstrates some of the best examples of glaciation and modification of landscape by glacial action in a region still tectonically active, spectacularly beautiful, and where natural processes prevail.
The criteria originally used to select Kluane as a UNESCO World Heritage Site are equally telling with respect to its unique significance and unparalleled equal:
- It contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance
- It is an outstanding example representative of major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features
- It is an outstanding example representative of significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
- It contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Our interest in hosting this festival in Haines Junction is an obvious one:
- Kluane provides a pristine, natural laboratory on our door step which if used sustainably and respectfully might serve to inform various research discipline, and inform our understand of natural phenomena
- The promotion and exposure of this small community on the world stage, as an exemplary example of a most uniquely beautiful and pristine “mountain community”
- We recognise the uniqueness of the area, and the potential contribution that further research and a greater understanding of this area could contribute to our global knowledge base in many disciplines, but not the least of which may be global warming.
- We recognize the importance of the “clean and green” economic opportunities that may accrue from eco-tourism, research and academic pursuit in the region.
- We recognize the opportunity that may be afforded our community youth in potential training and other opportunities.
- We hope that the festival is one small step in helping us eventually attract researchers in securing a “better informed” future through ongoing research in a truly unique area.
- We want to promote winter economic development and tourism in the Haines Junction area through this December festival.
- We hope to promote mountain culture in all its forms in Haines Junction – outdoor recreation, arts, music, literature, First Nation culture, traditional skills, backcountry safety, science and research, and partnerships with all the entities involved in those.
Come on out and enjoy our 4th annual Haines Junction celebration of International Mountain Day in 2019-20!!