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

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

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

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

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read