TEDx returns to Whitehorse

The day-long series of inspirational talks is taking place tomorrow at the Yukon Arts Centre, and after last year’s inaugural event was such a success, organizer Nigel Allen is excited about this weekend’s prospects.

TEDx is back in Whitehorse this weekend.

The day-long series of inspirational talks is taking place tomorrow at the Yukon Arts Centre, and after last year’s inaugural event was such a success, organizer Nigel Allen is excited about this weekend’s prospects.

“Last year was just a really good turnout, a really good response, and we just want to keep that going,” Allen said.

The biggest surprise from last year’s event was how smoothly everything ran, Allen said, and he’s keeping his fingers crossed for that to happen again.

“This year the plan was to kind of do the same thing again. The theme for this year is the power of reinvention. A lot of the speakers are talking about common themes of rethinking, reimagining old issues but trying to come at them from a new angle,” he said.

“We’re going to try to push the envelope a bit, maybe be a bit provocative.”

One of the talks that Allen said he’s personally looking forward to is Dr. Nicole Letourneau’s presentation on “un-inventing the modern family.”

“Most of our society is still focused around this sort of 1950s-1960s idea of the nuclear family, but that’s really starting to change. How does society’s way of thinking about and approaching society add up?” Allen explained.

Yukon College instructor Larry Gray will also be giving a new take on an old idea: aging.

“My talk is going to be about something called conscious eldering,” Gray said. “It’s part of a broader movement in society in general called conscious aging. It grew out of the baby boomer generation, basically, because boomers are, shall we say, interested in longevity.”

In Western society, there is an almost overwhelming focus on the self-discovery life journey. There is no shortage of movies and books about young people leaving home, going out into the world and figuring things out for themselves.

“It usually focuses on your work, and your material possessions, establishing yourself.”

But the catch is that the figuring never really stops. Once we have the white picket fence, and the dog, and the two-and-a-half kids, we may think that we’re done and the journey is over. That is, until we are presented with a serious crisis that we haven’t yet learned how to deal with.

“Some people often say they go to therapy to feel better. But what they really need to be doing is learning to get better at feeling.”

At 60 years old today, Gray’s moment came a decade ago when his son was born. He began to realize that, while he’d achieved success as we usually define it – big house, well-paying job, strong career – there were other parts of his life that seriously needed some work.

“It’s similar to the work that people often have to do when they learn they’re about to die,” he said. “They try to bring peace to their lives, to find resolution for things. But you don’t have to wait until the end to do that. If you do it right … you could honestly say that any day is a good day to die,” he said.

Boyd Benjamin, another speaker at the conference, knows first hand how hard that first self-discovery journey can be. The Flying Gwich’in Fiddler from Old Crow had to confront a lot of his community’s expectations as he carved his own path in the world. That’s what his talk will focus on.

“My idea was reinventing your path in life. Everyone has a place that they come from, and everyone is born into a certain status. There are certain things that are expected from you, depending on where you are from and your family.

“I’m from Old Crow. The things that are expected from a man growing up into the world are things like hunting and fishing and providing for your family. Things like furthering your education outside of Old Crow, that’s not so much expected,” Benjamin said.

“People up in the North, we’re pretty small town folk. A world beyond Old Crow to, for instance, the elders, they have a very unique … almost like tunnel vision. Anything beyond what they see is different and new age. I think I was lucky in that I had the drive in me to go beyond that,” he said.

That’s exactly what he did, and it was harder than he’d expected, but he also found a way to balance it.

The Gwich’in of Old Crow have a strong tradition of fiddling in the community, but the idea of leaving and going Outside for school is a definite divergence from what was expected of him.

His dual identity as an airman and musician allow him to bridge his heritage and his future.

“I want to talk about how you can go outside of the norm, and there are certain sacrifices you have to make in order to do these things. But I want people to get from this that you can do these things and still honour where you came from; your family and your community,” Benjamin said.

TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, is a set of global conferences that invite leading thinkers to speak for 18 minutes. TEDx events are an offshoot of the idea, and are independent, locally organized events.

Tickets, which go towards covering the cost of the event, are $35 – down from $50 last year, and includes lunch and coffee during the day-long event.

Contact Jesse Winter at


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