Dakhká Khwáan Dancers sing on the floor of the Legislative Assembly in honour of Doris McLean in Whitehorse on Nov. 13. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

First Indigenous ceremony held in legislative assembly in honour of Doris McLean

‘It just feels really appropriate’

The first Indigenous ceremony was hosted inside the Yukon legislative assembly this week and it was all for one person: Doris McLean, the beloved former chief of Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

“That’s so my mom,” said Marilyn Jensen, referring to how the occasion aligned with her mother’s passion for her culture, its revitalization and reclamation.

“It just feels really appropriate that her tribute will be the first time Indigenous people are in the legislative assembly singing our traditional clan songs,” she said ahead of the ceremony on Nov. 13.

“We’re singing what are known as the cry songs, which are songs we sing for deceased people up until we have their potlatch. This is why we aren’t doing a happy, celebratory song,” Jensen said.

McLean died at age 77 of cancer on Jan. 22.

She had walked the floor of the legislative assembly many times before acting as its Sergeant-at-Arms, the first Indigenous woman to do so in the territory – in Canada, according to Minister Jeanie Dendys, who paid a heartfelt tribute to McLean in the House.

“She was really loved by everyone sitting in political positions or working in the legislative assembly,” Jensen said. “They all really loved her presence. We miss her, we miss her so, so much.”

During her tribute, Dendys delved into great detail about McLean’s life, one that was full of adventure, intrigue and, at times, adversity, which she always plowed through.

“Through challenging times at residential schools, societal discrimination and government mandates to assimilate, she fought through all of it with a strong and clear vision to create a better future for her community and for her people,” Dendys said.

“Doris McLean’s dedication to community, culture and history has left a profound impact on all who came into contact with her. Her absence is profoundly felt, and her legacy and influence in Yukon will continue for generations to come.”

McLean volunteered extensively, including with the RCMP Citizens on Patrol and the 2000 Arctic Winter Games.

She was chief of CTFN, from 1988 to 1992, a timeframe in which she had a hand in developing the 1993 Umbrella Final Agreement.

Members from McLean’s clan, Dakl’aweidi (killer whale), were present at the ceremony, including her sister, children, grandchildren and members of the Dakhká Khwaán Dancers, which Jensen now leads. This group was the offshoot of The Skookum Jim/Keish Tlingit Dancers, which McLean established in the 1970s.

One of the members of the Dakhká Khwaán Dancers held McLean’s drum during the day of the ceremony.

Jensen called her late mother a “fierce, warrior leader of a woman.”

“I feel like she was almost like Jedi. She just did things that were so ahead of her time,” she said, adding that she wanted to hold this legacy up.

“She wasn’t afraid. She said things that needed to be said. Often times, she wasn’t popular for that, but she just went ahead. Such vision and such hope for her children and the generations to come.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Whitehorse council news, briefly

Some of the news that came out of Whitehorse city council this week

Low snowpack levels mean less hydro-generated electricity in 2019, says Yukon Energy Corp.

The corporation is expecting to use more liquified natural gas to make up for the difference

Whitehorse becomes first community north of 60 to have private pot shop

Triple J’s Canna Space opens its doors to first customers

Yukon government was wrong in evicting youth from a group home, commissioner finds

The health department has roughly two months to respond to recommendations

Yukon government releases terms of reference for health and social services review

Review panel’s final report will be delivered to YG in March 2020 instead of this October

Snowmobiles and snow bikes descend on Mount Sima for Yukon Yamaha Uphill Challenge

“I think everyone had their eyes opened on what could be done there”

Yukon Orienteering Association starts Coast Mountain Sports Sprint Series off in the right direction

The race on April 11 was the first of five sprint races planned for the spring

Yukon gymnasts stick the landing at inaugural B.C. Junior Olympic Compulsory Championships

Seven Polarettes earned five podium finishes at the two-day event in Langley, B.C.

École Émilie-Tremblay hosts first Yukon elementary school wrestling meet of 2019

“You can grab kids and you can trip and you can do that rough play, but there are rules”

Driving with Jens: Survey says….

If you’re like me, you probably feel inundated with surveys. It seems… Continue reading

Editorial: Promising electoral reform is the easy part

Details of what that would actually look like are much harder to come by

Yukonomist: The centre of the business universe moves 4,000 k.m. northwest

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business named Whitehorse Canada’s top place to start and grow a business

Whitehorse starts getting ready for Japanese students

This summer 13 Japanese students are slated to come north

Most Read