Skookum High

For this year's Halloween costume, Yukonomist donned his classic black and yellow jacket from his high school days.

For this year’s Halloween costume, Yukonomist donned his classic black and yellow jacket from his high school days.

While this certainly frightened lots of children, it also raised the question: “Who was FH Collins?”

Yukonomist subsequently put this brain teaser to a dozen bright young things at FH Collins Secondary School.

Puzzled looks were the result, although a few quick thinkers had good guesses. One suggested that Fred Collins was “a warrior” since that’s the moniker of the school team. Another speculated that perhaps he was “the guy who discovered Riverdale.”

One student of the 12 had the correct answer, which is, as the great man’s 22-word entry in Wikipedia confirms, Commissioner of the Yukon.

The Yukon government is now building a replacement for the landmark Yukon educational institution named after Collins. It opened in 1963 and it was understandable at the time to name it after a recent commissioner.

But now that we’re spending $50 million or more on a state-of-the-art educational facility designed to host all the latest teaching techniques and technologies, perhaps it is time to think about rebranding the school too. Maybe this would underline the launch of not just a new building, but of a new era in Yukon education.

So what would a good name be? Forget naming it after current politicians. That’s not only uncool, but they haven’t done much for education other than talk about it a lot. (They are paying for the new school, but only after years of embarrassing reports documenting leaking roofs and shocking heating bills).

Also, it’s taken 50 years for people to forget Fred Collins. Most of today’s crop of politicians will likely be forgotten the day after the next election.

So what would some good names be?

Whitehorse High is dull, even if it does hark back to the pre-FH Collins era. You could name it after the street it’s on, but Selkirk School and the Wood Street Centre have that angle covered. Plus, it would be weird to name it Lewes High considering that the Lewes River has disappeared from our maps. Plus the Vanier and PC kids would call its students “Lewes-ers.”

The school could try something punchy, like the new Thunder Mountain High in Juneau. But that sounds more like a Disneyland ride than a school.

The best idea I’ve heard so far is Skookum High. Skookum is tough to translate, but generally means strong and hearty. It’s easy to pronounce and a good fit symbolically, since it’s a word with First Nation roots that has also established itself in English thanks to its links to the Klondike Gold Rush and Skookum Jim. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, it has its origins in Chinook Jargon, a trade language spoken up and down the Pacific Coast and interior in the 19th and 20th centuries. Apparently Vancouver’s Kumtux School, Tamahnous Theatre and Tillicum mascot all took Chinook words for their names.

However, no discussion of building names in the era of the Air Canada Centre and GM Place would be complete with considering the corporate possibilities. And since cost over-runs are as common as bad hair in 1980s grad photos, we should probably start thinking about how to raise a little extra money to pay for those important things that get cut first when a school project goes over budget.

Northwestel and ATCO both bought naming rights at the Canada Games Centre, where each has an ice sheet named after them. Various corporate donors have also generously funded public infrastructure at the hospital, such as the deal last June announcing that the Outpatient Lab would be renamed in honour of Capstone and Minto Exploration.

It has been interesting to watch the Games Centre and the hospital run fundraising circles around the Department of Education over the last few years. People have complained that public institutions shouldn’t be forced by stingy politicians to hold bake sales and sell naming rights to corporations, but money is money. When the Department of Education calls the FH Building Advisory Committee and starts asking them which bits of the design they want to erase to save money, undoubtedly someone will propose selling the naming rights.

So put your thinking caps on. If you have a good idea for a new name, send it to the FH Student Council. If you’re a mining CEO with a few million bucks, go ahead and call the principal.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s

adventure novels.

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