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heritage fair reveals many stories

Brenna Symanski demonstrated her grandfather's puppet. Greg Murdoch displayed his skill juggling three balls at once. Cassidy Everitt wore a beard and impersonated Jacques Cartier.

Brenna Symanski demonstrated her grandfather’s puppet. Greg Murdoch displayed his skill juggling three balls at once. Cassidy Everitt wore a beard and impersonated Jacques Cartier. Taiya Melancon was attired in the beautiful beaded leather dress made for her by her grandmother.

All of them were participants at this year’s Yukon Heritage Fair. Students representing schools from Mayo, Dawson City, Haines Junction, as well as Whitehorse, were there.

The fair, which was organized by the Yukon Historical Museum with the help of many generous sponsors, was held at the Yukon Transportation Museum and Beringia Centre on Thursday, May 5. It has been an annual event now for several years, and has always been as popular with the judges and the organizers and teachers as it has been with the kids.

And here’s why.

The students who enter the fair chose topics that they relate to in some way. Several of this year’s entries pertained to family connections. Caelan Pangmon McLean presented an exhibit that detailed his family’s connection to the fur trade. His knowledge of the topic was expansive, and interesting.

Greg Murdoch expounded upon a Yukon institution - The Frantic Follies. He could qualify as an authority on the topic; his father was one of the founders and Greg, in the family tradition, has also worked at the Follies.

Madison Betts traced both her family and the local history through a nugget necklace that has been passed from person to person since gold rush times. Another student, Allison Hill, presented the history of her community, entering on her own, because Elijah Smith School did not sponsor any students this year. Now that’s commitment!

The displays spanned a wide range of topics, but most could be grouped into several broad categories.

Transportation displays included the S.S. Klondike, the White Pass and Yukon Route, the Canadian Pacific Railroad and dog mushing in the Yukon. I can relate to railroad theme personally - my father, who was an engineer for the CPR, put in 44 years before retiring.

War is an often covered topic, and this year was no exception. We learned about Canada’s involvement in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. There were displays on the War of 1812, and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Two more described women in war; one dealt with a woman pilot named Marion Orr, the other with the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.

Contemporary topics were also addressed, including the Vancouver Canucks, Rick Hansen and Stompin’ Tom Connors. The Anik Satellite was featured in another. Anik is of particular interest to Yukoners for it heralded live television programming and stable communications for northern Canadians. Not everybody was happy about that at the time!

This year, the exhibits dealing with Canadian heroes and icons included the history of the Stanley Cup, Billy Bishop, Emily Carr and Norman Bethune. For the discovery of Insulin, Canadians earned a Nobel Prize in medicine.

And of course, there were presentations about the Mad Trapper.

Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and passed on to future generations. Cultural heritage includes such tangible things as buildings, landscapes, books, works of art, and artifacts. Intangible culture can include folklore, stories and songs, language, and special knowledge and practices.

Both the tangible and the intangible were represented at this year’s fair. Traditional beadwork, which has elements of both, was shown in two displays. Medals and other family trophies were proudly presented, and stories from parents and grandparents were shared with those who came to admire the students’ work.

Anybody who came to view the projects of these enthusiastic and involved students undoubtedly left with a sense of the richness and diversity of the strands of our Canadian heritage, and the thickness of the cultural fabric which has been woven from them.

Congratulations to you all for a job well done!

The winners of this year’s heritage fair included:

Grades 4/5

First: Gavin Winter-Sinnott, History of Moose in the Yukon, JV Clark School

Second: Greg Murdoch, Frantic Follies, Selkirk School

Third: Lizzy Sparling, Canadian Women’s Army Corps, Golden Horn school

Honourable Mention: Yovana Cooper, Georges P. Vanier, Christ The King Elementary School

Grades 6/7

First: Emma Morin, Father Richaud, St. Elias School

Second: Jared Leary, Vimy Ridge- the Great Canadian Battle, JV Clark School

Third: Sarah Diment, Sir Richard Turner, Golden Horn School

Honourable Mention: Caelan Pangmon McLean, The Fur Trade and my Family Connection to it, Golden Horn School

Special Awards

People’s Choice:

Grades 4/5: Gavin Winter-Sinnott, History of Moose in the Yukon, JV Clark School

Grades 6/7: Taiya Melancon, Northern Tutchone Beadwork in my Family, JV Clark School

Canadian History Award: Mikaela Kruse, Anik Satellites, Golden Horn School

Best Research & Writing: Lizzy Sparling, Canadian Women’s Army Corps, Golden Horn School

Heritage Figures & Events: Katelyn Vowk, “No Place for a Lady” Marion Orr; Golden Horn School

Yellow Truck Award: Sya Berkman, History of Dog Mushing in Yukon, Golden Horn School

Arts & Culture Award:

Grades 4/5: Chris Sabio, Emily Carr, Christ the King Elementary School

Grades 6/7:Taiya Melancon, Northern Tutchone Beadwork in my Family, JV Clark School

First Nations:

Grades 4/5: Destyn Aird, What is Beading?, Holy Family School

Grades 6/7: Lakeisha Quock, Captain John Sualis , St. Elias School

Genealogy Award:

1. Brynna Symanski, Ray Roch`s Flim Flam Foolery, St. Elias School

2. Lakeisha Quock, Captain John Sualis, St. Elias School

Sports & Recreation Award: Carl Knickle, Lord Stanley and the Stanley Cup, Holy Family School

Explore, Create, Discover Award: Tasha-Lee Schwantz, Canadian Pacific Railway, Holy Family School

Best Graphic Design: James Meredith, Norman Bethune, Christ the King Elementary School

History Hunter:

Grades 4/5: Rasina Amin, White Pass and Yukon Railway, Selkirk Elementary School

Grades 6/7: Madison Betts, Nuggett Necklace, Robert Service School

Michael Gates is a Yukon historian and sometimes adventurer living in Whitehorse. His book, History Hunting in the Yukon, is now available in good stores everywhere in the territory.