The Carcross/Tagish First Nation demolished a building formerly part of the Chootla Indian Residential School, but Carcross resident Dwayne Johnson claims he owned the building. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Carcross man says CTFN demolished building he owned as part of residential school cleanup

‘Three-thousand dollars wouldn’t even build a lean-to for my car to stand under’

Carcross/Tagish First Nation citizen Dwayne Johnson claims the First Nation knocked down a three-bay garage that he owns without his consent.

The garage was once part of the Chootla Indian Residential School, which was operated by the Anglican Church in Carcross from 1911 to 1969. As part of a healing, environmental and social remediation process, the CTFN is demolishing buildings associated with the school.

The garage was torn down June 10 by the CTFN development corporation. The company said it demolished the building on the orders of CTFN and the federal government.

“We did demolish that building,” said Nelson Lapine, managing director for the development corporation. “CTFN is the owner as far as I know.”

There are many social and emotional issues tied up with the school, Lapine said.

“We respect what the Carcross/Tagish First Nation mandates,” he said. “We’re really a very small part of this.”

Johnson said he bought the building from his uncle, Howard Atlin, for $2,500. He provided the News with a copy of the handwritten bill of sale detailing the purchase, dated June 10, 1990. Atlin acquired the building from CTFN, he said.

Johnson provided a copy of a band council resolution dated November 19, 1985, between the then-Carcross Tagish Indian Band and Atlin, which stated that Atlin had requested to use the building and been granted access to it as a woodworking facility. Atlin was responsible for any costs associated with the building, it said.

“Whereas the Chootla School lands and associated buildings are under the jurisdiction of Carcross Tagish Indian Band…. Therefore let it be resolved that Carcross Tagish Indian Band agrees that Howard Atlin use the Chootla garage for the said purpose (of a woodworking shop).”

While the letter Johnson provided only states that the CTFN granted his uncle the permission to use the building, Atlin said he eventually obtained legal ownership. Given how long ago the transfer was made, he said, he is not sure where the receipt is. However, he had to have and show legal ownership to the electricity company in order to have power installed at the time, he said.

“That was the only way to get power in there with Yukon Electric then, was to show ownership,” he said.

Janet Patterson, spokesperson for Yukon Energy, said proof of ownership would one of the things that would be required to hook up electrical service.

Atlin said he had the electrical utilities in the building installed, the infrastructure of which would later be used by the houses adjacent to the property.

“I put all that in there… and then people started hooking up to it,” he said.

Johnson provided the News with a receipt from August 14, 1986, which show Atlin paid $1,540 to Swales Electric to wire the shop.

Johnson said he had not used the building for several years. In 2012, he suffered from an accident that left him in a wheelchair and unable to work. Prior to that, he said, he had worked as his uncle’s apprentice in the shop, and had used the building as a garage to do auto painting and body work.

Johnson said he did not receive a formal letter from CTFN informing him they planned to tear down the building.

“I went to all these meetings (about the remediation) and it was all for nothing, they still kept me in the dark,” he said.

Johnson’s friend Stan James Jr. was using a shed behind the garage that was also part of the residential school. It was demolished at the same time as the garage. James said he didn’t have a legal title to the property, but that he had been using it “for years and years,” and had put money into its repair and upkeep.

“When I found it, it was all falling down, run down,” he said. “I fixed it up, painted it, put a door on it.”

Two calls to Michelle Parsons, the executive director of CTFN, and four calls to Daphne Pelletier, the communications manager for CTFN, made between July 10 and July 11, went unreturned. CTFN chief Andy Carvill spoke to the News late in the afternoon of July 11, but declined to go on the record.

CTFN offered Johnson $3,000 in compensation for the building last week, Johnson said, and told him “not to think about the offer too long.”

Johnson said the offer was not in cash, but in credit for lumber.

“It was a pretty huge garage,” he said. “Three thousand dollars wouldn’t even build a lean-to for my car to stand under.”

Johnson said he declined the payout.

“I just want people to know about what’s been going on,” he said.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com