Students dive into history at annual heritage fair

My wife Kathy and I went on an amazing journey of discovery Thursday of last week. One minute, I was retracing the steps of a man collecting botanical specimens en route to Alaska over the Chilkoot Pass, thanks to the vivid account of Kalie Bennett of Golden Horn School. The next minute Kathy was learning about Faith Fenton, the Gold Rush journalist, from Marie Mabilog of Christ the King Elementary School.

My wife Kathy and I went on an amazing journey of discovery Thursday of last week. One minute, I was retracing the steps of a man collecting botanical specimens en route to Alaska over the Chilkoot Pass, thanks to the vivid account of Kalie Bennett of Golden Horn School. The next minute Kathy was learning about Faith Fenton, the Gold Rush journalist, from Marie Mabilog of Christ the King Elementary School.

I talked to Rena Simon, from Pelly Crossing, who was rediscovering her First Nation identity through conversations that she had with elders from her community. The next moment, I was given a well-informed account, by Miguel Portea of Christ the King, of the tramways that were used to circumvent Miles Canyon and the Whitehorse Rapids before the railway was built around them.

Meena Zanger, of Whitehorse Elementary, provided not only an account of the fiddling tradition in the Yukon, but also demonstrated different styles, using her fiddle.

All of these presentations and many more quests into Canadian heritage were on display at the 2017 Yukon Stikine Heritage Fair, which was held on May 4 at the Yukon Transportation Museum.

These events are a delight, and I am always rewarded for participating as a judge by meeting some really smart youngsters who have ventured into our heritage and then shared it with those who attended.

And the event was well attended. There are always a large number of volunteers for this event and numerous sponsors. The public also comes to view the displays and hear the presentations.

This year’s event was the 19th annual heritage fair. There were 66 students representing 13 schools, from Old Crow in the north, to Atlin in the south, displaying their projects. In total, 24 awards were distributed to the participants.

The annual History Hunter awards went this year to Marie Mabilog (Christ the King Elementary) for her project on Faith Fenton, and to Kalie Bennett (Golden Horn) for her project, “Following in the Footsteps of Funston’s 1893 Chilkoot Journey.” Well done, both of you!

The History Hunter Award is limited to those projects focusing upon the Yukon. I looked for students who showed extraordinary interest in their subject and who referred to a wide variety of sources for their information. The display had to be concise, readable and informative (but not too text-intensive), and the student had to show that they mastered, and could present the information about their subject.

It was tough choosing winners this year as there were so many good projects to choose from. Fortunately, these other students received awards in other categories for their efforts.

All in all, I say well done! I hope to see some of these students again next year.

The winners in the other categories were the following:

Grade 4 Awards

• 1st Place: “Who invented the life-saving suit?” by Ailie Robertson, Golden Horn Elementary School (GHES)

• 2nd Place: “How did 7 men from Dawson change Stanley Cup history forever?” by Hannah Cibart (GHES)

• 3rd Place: “What is the Yukon Quest” by Leah Maclean and Sydney Sinclair, Ècole Whitehorse Elementary School (EWES)

Grade 5 Awards
• 1st Place: “Gold Rush or Bone Rush?” by Anneke Aasman, Christ the King Elementary School (CKES)

• 2nd Place: “Who made a great impact on Canadian Music?” by Jazzen Patterson (GHES)

• 3rd Place: “History of Traditional Herbal Medicine” by Justine Bellmore-Smarch and Soraya Oliverio, Tantalus Elementary School (TCS)

Grades 6/7 Awards
• 1st Place: “The Frantic Follies” by Cadence Milford (GHES)

• 2nd Place: “Far from Home” by Shakina Johnson, St. Elias Community School (SECS)

• 3rd Place: “Gwich’in People and their use of Dogs” by Tyra Benjamin, Chief Zzeh Gittlit School (CZGS)

Grades 8/9 Awards
• 1st Place: “Northern Tutchone Language and Culture” by Rena Simon, Eliza Van Bibber School (EVBS)

• 2nd Place: “Issues Facing the Porcupine Caribou Herd” by Candace Tetlichi (CZGS)

• 3rd Place: “The Gwich’in Nation” by Jocelyn Benjamin (CZGS)

Special Awards
• Palaeontology or Archaeology Award, (sponsored by Yukon Government Palaeontology Department): “Gold Rush or Bone Rush?” by Anneke Aasman (CKES)

• Oral History Award (sponsored by Linda Johnson and Lori Eastmure): “Northern Tutchone Language and Culture” by Rena Simon (EVBS)

• Genealogy Awards (sponsored by Maggie Leary): “Short Circuit: Richard Thompson” by Ethan Thompson (SECS) and “Soaring High” by Brooklyn Miller (SECS)

• Archives Award (sponsored by Yukon Archives): “How did 7 men from Dawson change Stanley Cup history forever?” by Hannah Cibart (GHES)

• Best Graphic Design (sponsored by Patricia Halladay): “The Franklin Expedition” by Cadence Hartland, Hidden Valley Elementary School (HVES)

• Yukon Heritage Award (sponsored by the Government of Yukon, Department of Education): “Fiddling in the Snow with Style” by Menna Zanger (EWES)

• Midnight Arts Award (sponsored by Rob Ingram and Helene Dobrowolsky): “Issues Facing the Porcupine Caribou Herd” by Candace Tetlichi (CZGS)

• First Nation History and Culture Award (sponsored by Linda Johnson and Lori Eastmure): “Tlingit People” by Mariella Wentzell and Janelle Virmoux-Jackson (EWES)

Parks Canada Peoples’ Choice Awards
• Grades 4/5: “History of Traditional Herbal Medicine” by Justine Bellmore-Smarch and Soraya Oliverio (TCS)

• Grades 6/7: “Canada’s Women, Canada’s Game” by Wynne Anderson-Lindsay (EWES)

• Grades 8/9: “Issues Facing the Porcupine Caribou Herd” by Candace Tetlichi (CZGS)​

Michael Gates is a Yukon historian and sometimes adventurer based in Whitehorse. His new book, From the Klondike to Berlin, is now available in stores everywhere.

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