Carcross/Tagish First Nation celebrates opening of new learning centre

The centre held three days of celebrations to open the building after nearly a decade of work.

People move a totem pole in position to be raised at the Carcross/Tagish learning centre June 20. The centre will feature nine totem poles. (Carcross/Tagish First Nation)

Andrew Seal

News Reporter

Carcross/Tagish First Nation is opening its new learning centre with three days of celebrations.

In the works for nine years, the facility is intended to be a central gathering place for the community, with spaces allocated for learning, Yukon College, youth, elders, heritage and archives, a document management system, art, and other events.

“The community and the people in the government were thinking we need a place to have potlatches and share stories — a clan house,” said Daphne Vernier, a spokesperson for the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

The event space has already seen a lot of bookings for the summer: The Council of Yukon First Nations assembly will take place at the learning centre as well as an intertribal watershed panel.

“A lot of people want to rent the space. We’ve had a lot of weddings book here as well,” said Vernier.

The near decade-long project involved all three levels of government. The federal and territorial governments contributed a combined $5.3 million.

Citizens of the First Nation were responsible for about 85 per cent of the facility’s construction.

Many of those who worked on the project were trained at the community’s Yukon College campus as carpenters and electricians among other jobs.

Their training took place as part of a small housing construction program, intended to create skilled workers in the community.

Eleven of the program’s 15 graduates went on to work on the learning centre. All of them had previously been on social assistance, Vernier said.

“The community is really thrilled. It’s all mainly been done by our citizens. It’s amazing to see,” she said.

Nine totem poles will be erected at the learning centre: one for each of the six clans, one wolf, one crow, and one animal mother, representing all the animals of the nation’s traditional territory.

The animal mother is being erected today, June 20, and will stand over 11 metres tall.

“The process has been great but now we’re excited to put the tool belts aside and celebrate,” said Vernier.

Three days of festivities — June 19-21 — are on the agenda in Carcross. Everyone is invited to attend the celebration, which will include the pole raising ceremony, dancing, the house opening, cultural events, and a sunrise ceremony on June 21, the summer solstice. Food will also be served and moose meat is on the menu.

“It’s a very beautiful place and we want it to be accessible to everyone in the Yukon and even the whole country,” said Vernier. “We also invited all our relatives from Alaska and other areas to come for the celebration.”

For the time being, the facility is officially called the learning centre, however Vernier says the First Nation hopes to choose a Tlingit name for it in the future.

Contact Andrew Seal at andrew.seal@yukon-news.com.

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