Recipients honoured with annual Yukon Heritage Awards

Each year, to honour the territory's unique heritage, the Yukon Historical and Museums Association presents the Yukon Heritage Awards.

Each year, to honour the territory’s unique heritage, the Yukon Historical and Museums Association presents the Yukon Heritage Awards. They are given to deserving individuals and organizations for the contributions that they made to preserving and celebrating Yukon’s heritage in the preceding year.

This year, four awards were presented in an awards ceremony at the Yukon Archives last Tuesday evening before an appreciative crowd of 60 people.

Sally Robinson, the president of the YHMA, welcomed guests, and YHMA executive director Nancy Oakley introduced the keynote speaker for the evening, David Neufeld. From the mid-1980s until his recent retirement, Neufeld had been Parks Canada’s Yukon historian. Growing up in a multi-generational Mennonite home, he was inspired by the stories told by his Groszma (grandmother) of her early life in the Ukraine and ultimate expulsion from the home there that she likened to paradise.

Neufeld presented a short talk about three stories, and the view of the world which they present: one American, one Canadian, and one Athabascan. Each frames the land within a different perspective.

Bryan Clayson, the first recipient of the evening, accepted the Helen Couch Volunteer of the Year Award. Janna Powell, director of the Yukon Transportation Museum, and Angela Drainville, executive director of the Miles Canyon Historic Railway Society, both attested to the hours of volunteer work he committed to keep the running stock of the railway society operating smoothly.

According to the citation for his award, “Bryan has been an integral part of the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society for many years, and his love for streetcars and his mechanical skills have lovingly kept the 90-year-old Whitehorse Waterfront Trolley functioning for over 15 years. … Every summer, he mentors young staff in the mechanics of the diesel generator and general maintenance and operations in the Roundhouse…This attraction continues to bring smiles to everyone who sees it.  And thanks to the tireless work of Mr. Clayson, it is one that we will enjoy for years to come.”

The Innovation, Education and Community Engagement Award is a new honour. The first recipient is “The Hidden Histories Society Yukon.” They earned it for “outstanding or innovative contribution to heritage education or interpretation through social media, publications, displays, exhibits, or other products or activities that promote heritage conservation.”

Through a series of projects that span 15 years, Hidden Histories has brought to light aspects of the Yukon’s rich social cultural communities through exhibits and special events. It has reached out to people in all corners of the territory to engage and involve them in celebrating the Yukon’s rich heritage together.

Their work has included producing and circulating portable display panels and online exhibits on Black and Asian Yukon history. They have offered oral history workshops, coordinated CBC book discussions, and speakers and films for Black and Asian history months. They have also offered school presentations and cemetery visits to respect Yukon Black and Asian pioneers. They have worked with a broad group of community partners to undertake these activities, from the Yukon Human Rights Commission to the National Association of Japanese Canadians.

In expressing her thanks on behalf of the society, Lillian Nakamura Maguire singled out Peggy D’Orsay and other staff at the Yukon Archives for the special support they have given to the society over the years.

The Diocese of Yukon was awarded this year’s Heritage Conservation Project of the Year. Sponsored by the Yukon’s Tourism and Culture Department’s historic sites unit, the award was presented for the continued conservation and restoration of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Dawson City. Built in 1902, St. Paul’s Anglican Church is a significant example of frontier mission architecture in the Gothic Revival style. It has been in continuous use as a church since its construction and was designated a National Historic Site in 1989.

The diocese showed tremendous commitment to the preservation of this important landmark through 30 years of conservation and maintenance. In the past year they undertook extensive repairs to the roof, eaves troughs and exterior sidings as well as restoration of the historic wood windows according to the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

Though not able to attend the awards, Betty Davidson of Dawson City responded to the award on behalf of the congregation in Dawson in a message thanking many groups and individuals for their financial support. Yukon Minister of Tourism and Culture Elaine Taylor, who attended the ceremony Tuesday night, will be taking the award to Dawson City, where she will be presenting it in person next week.

Pat Ellis received the Annual Heritage Award. For 25 years she has been tireless in preserving, documenting, and presenting some of the lesser-known stories of Yukon’s history. Over the past five years Pat has produced a series of informative small books on different aspects of Yukon history and organized events at the MacBride Museum.

Most recently in 2015, Pat published a book titled The Squatters of Downtown Whitehorse. It was the culmination of years of research and hard work. For two years she scoured the Yukon Archives, City of Whitehorse Archives and the Lands Branch Archives. She drew upon her own memories and collected anecdotes and photographs from former squatters and their families.

In November 2015, she self-published her book, which was launched at a special, well-attended event at the MacBride Museum. The 60-page paperback outlines the political and social events leading up to the squatter settlements and it tells of the personal struggles of the people who lived in Whitehorse at the time.

Ellis’s book brought these and other lesser-known stories to the forefront. People who lived in the squatter areas are now able to see their stories in print, and newcomers who did not know about that part of the history have a valuable reference to turn to.

Introducing Ellis, MacBride Museum spokesperson Leighann Chalykoff said that Ellis has given “above and beyond the call of duty.” Chalykoff went on to describe Ellis, with whom she has collaborated on many special events at the museum, as her secret weapon. Chalykoff said that Ellis frequently gives her ideas that make her look like a genius when she presents them to her board of directors.

Congratulations to all of this year’s recipients for their commitment, dedication, and accomplishments.

Michael Gates is a Yukon historian and sometimes adventurer based in Whitehorse. He is currently writing as book on the Yukon in World War I. You can contact him at msgates@northwestel.net

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read