Carving a life from the ashes

A shack destroyed by fire was a loss estimated at $11,000, according to firefighters. For Shawn Johnnie, it was everything he had in life, including a fresh start.

A shack destroyed by fire was a loss estimated at $11,000, according to firefighters.

For Shawn Johnnie, it was everything he had in life, including a fresh start.

During the last three years Johnnie has been staying in a camper on Kwanlin Dun First Nation land recognized as his grandmother’s, down Long Lake Road.

The vacant lot, littered with a few abandoned cars, has a beautiful view of the Yukon River and looks directly at Two Mile and Haeckel hills, with all of downtown Whitehorse in between.

Johnnie planned a small carving studio there.

And it was almost finished. It just needed drywall.

On Wednesday afternoon, at around 3:20 p.m., the structure burned to the ground.

Johnnie lost everything, including most of his carving tools.

“Carving keeps me happy, sober and out of trouble,” he says. “I did have a few points of my life when I was mixed up pretty bad. I’m trying to get myself back on my feet.”

The art, sculpted from moose antler and sheep horn, used to be just a high school hobby until this past year when Johnnie started doing it more seriously, making a living off of it and saving up to build this studio, he says.

“We just felt like he needed something real to give him a boost in life and really go,” says Chris Stevens, one of the friends who dedicated much of his Christmas holiday to helping Johnnie build the structure.

Pooling their money, tools and donations of lumber and equipment, the building took shape.

But a donated stove ended it all.

“I had this stove that we got secondhand,” says Johnnie, adding it was an oil-drip stove that he wasn’t familiar with.

“I thought it was alright, but it was such an old stove that, before I knew it, I looked over and I guess the bottom of the stove had burnt out and the fuel had spilled on the ground.”

“I tried to kick off the stovepipe so I could pull out the stove and save the building, but I never had enough time.”

Johnnie ran to neighbour Anne Bradley’s house to call the fire department. They were already on their way.

The flames were visible from Two Mile Hill.

“I was kind of lucky, though, that it happened now and not sometime when I was sleeping or something,” says Johnnie.

As disappointing as the loss is, he’s trying to remain positive.

“He’s not very rich – he carves for a living,” says Stevens. “It’s only been the last year this guy’s tried to change his life around. “He’s had nothing but terrible things happen.”

But knowing the land is there for him helps, says Johnnie.

“I can always start over and that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” he says. “Build a nice place there. “I just want to thank the friends and family that helped me get this far.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

Local poet Joanna Lilley is photographed at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 20, where she will be hosting a poetry workshop on Jan. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Poetry for the ages

Workshop set for the Yukon Beringia Centre

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the coronavirus, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris in the State Dinning Room of the White House on Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C. The administration announced plans Jan. 20 for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Gwich’in. (Alex Brandon/AP)
U.S. President Joe Biden halts oil and gas lease sales in ANWR

“Its great to have an ally in the White House”

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 22, 2021

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

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

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

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

Most Read