Exhibit explores ties to the past

The ghost town of Snag, where a church and a few dilapidated cabins are all that remain from the Second World War era, was likely the last place Ukjese van Kampen expected to meet a distant relative last summer.

The ghost town of Snag, where a church and a few dilapidated cabins are all that remain from the Second World War era, was likely the last place Ukjese van Kampen expected to meet a distant relative last summer.

The Northern Tutchone artist was in the remote location to give workshops at the White River First Nation’s cultural camp, and that’s where he met Martha Northway.

Both are relatives of Annie Ned, the award-winning Southern Tutchone matriarch who spent 35 years teaching song and dance in residential schools, at Yukon Hall and to her own large family.

“I’d been told growing up that our family had a connection in Northway, Alaska,” van Kampen said.

“When I was in Snag, Martha Northway’s daughter told her that the great-grandson of Annie Ned was there. She came down from Northway to see me and that was quite a nice occurrence.”

It was also exciting for van Kampen because he was meeting the daughter of Walter Northway, the revered chief after whom the village is named.

“He was a cultural icon,” he said.

Van Kampen was the first participant of the Little John Archaeological Site artist-in-residence program last summer, sponsored by the Yukon Art Centre’s Culture Quest Program, Yukon College and the White River First Nation.

The program took him to Little John first, an excavation site between the Canadian and American borders in the Beaver Creek region, and then to Deadman Lake in Alaska.

The Little John Field Camp, first established in 2002, has yielded proof that humans have been living in the area for more than 12,000 years.

Van Kampen watched as archaeologists dug for arrowheads, scrapers and other cultural artifacts.

“They found some obsidian (a naturally occurring volcanic glass) at Deadman Lake,” he said.

“It’s important because if it’s there, generally that means that it was brought from somewhere else.”

And as they were closing down the site at Deadman Lake they discovered a discoloration in the sand that caused some excitement, but they had to fill up the hole and leave because they ran out of time, he said. They will re-visit the site this summer.

Van Kampen, who holds a doctorate degree in the history of Yukon’s First Nations art, has put together a show featuring paintings, sketches and photographs inspired by his time in the program.

Called Archaeology in a Northern Community, the show will be displayed at the Yukon Arts Centre Community Gallery starting tomorrow.

But van Kampen doesn’t like to call himself an artist.

“If you make candles, you can call yourself an artist,” he said.

“I call myself an image and statement maker. Some of the paintings make blatant statements while others are more subtle.”

One example is the painting of a woman from the Upper Tanana people, standing in between the American and Canadian borders and holding flags in both hands.

“She doesn’t look so happy because her people are split in half,” he said.

The Upper Tanana regional bands, part of the Tanana Athabaskan people, are mostly located along the Tanana River in Alaska but some live in southwestern Yukon.

Van Kampen said he plans on adding chicken wire along the border to emphasize the split.

Another painting depicts Martha Northway sitting on a chair at the cultural camp in Snag, with the White River in the background.

Van Kampen had taken a picture of her elsewhere but wanted to show her “in her people’s land,” he said.

A Champagne and Aishihik First Nations citizen, van Kampen is a former Canadian Airborne Regiment commando and combat engineer in the United States Marines.

His art has been featured around the world including in Munich, Seattle, Ottawa and Sydney, Australia.

One of the reasons the artist-in-residence program was so successful was because it was a First Nation person participating, he said.

“And also someone who has a connection with the community, who knew something about the art and the people,” he added.

“The interactions were very easy going.”

Archaeology in a Northern Community opens tomorrow evening. There is an opening reception at 5 p.m. with refreshments and Van Kampen will be in attendance.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Team Togo member Katie Moen sits in a sled behind a snowmobile for the ride from the airport to Chief Zzeh Gittlit School. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Coming together: How Old Crow became one of the first communities in the world to be fully vaccinated

Team Togo and Team Balto assembled with a mission to not waste a single dose of vaccine

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. If council moves forward with bylaw changes, eating and drinking establishments could set up pop-up patios in on-street parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Patios may be popping up in Whitehorse this summer

City considers program for downtown restaurants and bars

The Yukon Coroner's Service has confirmed the death of a skateboarder found injured on Hamilton Boulevard on May 2. Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News
Whitehorse man dies in skateboarding accident

Coroner urges the use of helmets, protective gear, while skateboarding.

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Most Read