Elder’s passing reverberates past Old Crow

Gwitch'in people from all across the North have gathered in Old Crow this week to remember one of their strongest leaders.

Gwitch’in people from all across the North have gathered in Old Crow this week to remember one of their strongest leaders.

“We’ve had about 50 people come over from the Northwest Territories and a number of people from Alaska to participate in the celebration of life of John Joe Kyikavichik,” said Darius Elias, standing to the side of the funeral procession in Old Crow on Thursday.

Officially, Kyikavichik was a chief and a councillor. As an elder, he was formally recognized for his contributions to the Yukon and for his work to preserve First Nations’ visions. And as a younger man, he was part of the delegation that traveled to Ottawa to sign and present the landmark document, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow.

But to the people of Old Crow, and many others across the North, he was a friend, leader and a role model with a great sense of humour.

Kyikavichik was married to Sarah Tiyza Kyikavichik, had six children, twelve grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

“When I was a kid, he was at every single meeting, always speaking up and letting people know about his experiences on the land and giving direction and gentle guidance to the youth,” said Elias. “He was such a real, Vuntut Gwitch’in role model.”

Kyikavichik passed away on August 28. He was 86 years old.

“He was such a pillar of strength for our community over the years,” said Elias, noting Kyikavichik’s words about the land will be the ones he remembers most.

“He always said, ‘Our water, our land, our wildlife is so important and we’re rich people as long as we can dip a cup into the Porcupine River and drink it with confidence.’”

But Kyikavichik was more than just wise, he was able to help conflicting people find common ground, said Elias.

He remembers heated meetings in the community, years ago, when discussions were underway regarding protection of the area along the Porcupine River, where the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans built their branch office.

“We had half the room filled with pro-development and half was people for protection and people that wanted a balance in the middle,” said Elias. “And I remember he had such grace under pressure. He just made some phenomenal speeches that I consider so invaluable today and I consider him instrumental in that whole process in securing the watershed.”

But above all, Kyikavichik shone when he spoke to the youth – whether it was when he took his grandchildren out hunting and trapping, or when he shocked non-aboriginal students from the South, breaking a trapped muskrat’s neck in front of them and then serving it to them for dinner.

Elias got to grow up with Kyikavichik as a nextdoor neighbour and he considers himself blessed to call him a personal mentor.

“He always conveyed to the youth that the work that we do today is not for us,” said Elias. “He always said that it’s for those people who are yet to be born yet.

“He was a visionary, to say the least. Words can’t describe the contribution he’s made to our people.

“His legacy is going to live on. His hard work is done now and we have to carry it on.”

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

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