A conversation with river guide Bobbi Rose Koe

Joel Hibbard joined river guide, Bobbie Rose Koe, for a conversation about the Yukons' Wind River, and the importance of protecting the surrounding Peel Watershed.

In late January we were just thawing out from a record breaking cold snap in Whitehorse, Yukon. After hunkering down for two weeks it was so good to see friends again. A friend who guides with us is Bobbi Rose Koe. She is from the Peel and those of you on our 2019 Snake River Expedition got to know her (and her fantastic laugh!) as she shared her connection to this powerful land. I am excited to share a piece of a conversation we had as we caught up and enjoyed a tea.

River guide, Bobbi Rose Koe, sharing her knowledge of the land while guiding an expedition down the Snake River in 2019.

Thanks for doing this with me, lets get into it. What is your first memory of the Wind River?

You mean when I first heard it? haha. I think it when I was growing up in Fort McPherson and hearing stories about it from my family. About our people traveling in the Peel Watershed.

What is your family’s connection to the Peel watershed?

It is where my family comes from. My family was born and raised in the Peel River area until the 1920’s when they moved to Fort McPherson.

My great-great grandfather is buried on the Hart River and my family travelled all over. The wind is one of the places that reminds me of my family. Of my Grandfather.

Wow, that is an incredible connection. I don’t know if I can personally understand what that feels like. What do you always bring into the Peel watershed?

I always have a pair of beautiful yellow earrings, an open heart, memories of previous expeditions and the stories my grandparents told me of the area. I bring gratitude that I get to experience these places and that my people still get to travel through this area.

If you could share the river with one person, who would that be?

My grandfather…. or Leonardo Di Caprio.

What do you see happen to people when they paddle the Wind for the first time?

They have a transformational experience.

Why is that?

Because it is what the wind does, it provides perspective. When you are able to share stories of an area you get to know and connect to the land. It changes everything.

Why is it important for other people to experience the Wind for themselves?

It is unique and when people see this place they understand some of why we fought so hard to protect the Peel.

How were you involved in the fight to protect the Peel?

I was born into it, it is literally where I am from. They way I was raised and who I was raised beside has left me believing that I became a person to protect, part of the traditional territory of Gwich’in people. It is because I grew up on the land with my family and that I was able to travel to different places that I felt the need to step up to the plate to have this place protected. My Grandfather told me that because I know our lands, our people who lives out on the land, and eat from the land. We have to take care of it, speak for it.

The Peel Watershed’s Six Sacred Rivers Protected!

What is your favourite hike on the Wind?

There is a mountain that I call the End of the Beginning. It is across from Royal Mountain and I love it. It is the end of the upper Wind Valley and from the top you can see where you came from and can see 360 degrees of the Peel watershed. The Upper Wind, the Bonnet Plume… There was a time before I went to the Wind I dreamed of being on that mountain and when I stood on the top for the first time I knew I was meant to be there.

River guide Bobbi Rose Koe, overlooking her families traditional territory, with the Wind River and Royal Peak in the background.

What can travellers do to respect the area?

Lets be conscious of how we travel. Garbage, fire pans, and dealing with human waste properly are all so important. Acknowledging that this is our traditional land and to ask permission from the First Nations to travel in their territory is important too.

What is your dream for the future Wind river and the Seven Sacred Rivers of the Peel?

I think my dream for the Peel is that as I get older to pass it on to the future generations. To see them go into the Peel and see it they way that my grandparents had experienced seeing it. That they would know the stories about it and see the sun shining over Viniidainlaii for the rest of their lives.

Thanks again for doing this Bobbi Rose! That was fun and I hope we can do it again soon, would you tell me about the Snake River sometime? This has me excited for our return to the rivers!

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