How to crush a home

Kwanlin Dun First Nation is clearing old cars, trash and elders off its lot in Marwell. But Paddy and Stella Jim don't want to go. "We've been here for 50 years," said Stella.

Kwanlin Dun First Nation is clearing old cars, trash and elders off its lot in Marwell.

But Paddy and Stella Jim don’t want to go.

“We’ve been here for 50 years,” said Stella.

The 81-year-old was resting on a bed in her living room struggling with palsy, her long white hair tied in a loose bun.

There was a woodstove in the middle of the room, an outhouse out back and a water jug by the door.

“We haul our own water from our son who lives up the hill,” she said.

A couple of months ago, Kwanlin Dun told the Jims they’d have to move.

“We want to clean the area up and make it into an industrial park,” said Kwanlin Dun’s former chief Rick O’Brien, who’s been working on the Marwell project.

“We’ve already cleared out over 30 bins of garbage and 200 derelict cars,” he said.

“It’s a contaminated environment.”

Kwanlin Dun’s citizens used to live in Marwell, and O’Brien remembers lead dust clouding the air. White Pass had a yard down there when it was hauling lead from the Faro mine, he said.

The city also used to pump raw sewage into the wetland at the back of the property.

“If you walk around there you can still see the vegetation is different where it used to pump in,” said Kwanlin Dun special projects director Gary Bailie.

Bailie used to visit his cousins in Marwell and remembers the big pipe gushing sewage.

The smell was awful, he said.

“As a kid it was our worst nightmare to fall down in there.

“And I often wondered how they could make anyone live there.”

In the 1980s, the Kwanlin Dun village moved up to McIntyre.

But some families remained in Marwell, including the Jims.

Outside his old log home, Paddy picked up a small piece of wood with sticks and sinew attached to it.

The 87-year-old moved the sticks around, hooked a tiny piece of wood around some sinew, and then put his finger in the open space.

The whole contraption twirled, spun and snapped and a noose appeared where his finger was.

“It’s a spring-pole rabbit snare,” said Paddy.

Then he pointed out a well-maintained birch bark boat tucked beside the back wall of the house.

Paddy teaches children about their heritage at culture camps and in the schools.

“That’s how we learned,” he said.

“We learned from our elders. And I want to pass that on to the younger generation.”

If he moves, Paddy worries the schools and camps won’t be able to find him.

He’s also worried about his health.

On his way to bingo a few months ago, Paddy blacked out.

When he woke up he was in the hospital, with Stella at his side.

“We want to stay close to a doctor and to our daughter,” said Stella.

“We want a place in town.”

There were other elders living in tired shacks in Marwell.

“And Kwanlin Dun made sure they didn’t just toss anyone out,” said Bailie.

“We moved them to healthier, better places (in McIntyre). One elder got a brand new place.”

But Paddy and Stella don’t have that option.

The Jims are part of the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation, so it’s not up to Kwanlin Dun to find them a new home.

“The guy (from Kwanlin Dun) came again today and told us we had to move,” said Stella on Tuesday.

“But we have no place to go.”

Champagne/Aishihik housing director Terry Rufiange-Holway knew about the Jims.

When asked if Champagne/Aishihik was going to arrange housing for the elders, he said he’d have to get back to the News.

Rufiange-Holway did not call back before press time.

Just down the road from the Jims, a young man was yanking copper wire out from under the hood of an old car.

A black-and-brown puppy was sitting watching.

“They tried to tell me I had to move,” said the man, who didn’t want to give his name.

Surrounded by a sea of cars, his plywood house has no power and no running water.

He’s trying to make a living stripping parts from the wrecks spilling out of his yard.

“I’m trying to get everything out of them before they crush them,” he said.

“They told me, ‘Get out – we’re going to crush everything.’ And I said, ‘OK, go ahead and try.’”

The Jims have been more accommodating.

“I’ve been moving stuff from my yard for the past month,” said Paddy.

It’s all sitting under a tarp in his daughter’s Takhini yard.

Paddy and Stella used to live downtown, on Black Street and Third Avenue.

When Stella’s mom sold the land to the city, their house was moved to its current location in Marwell, more than 50 years ago, she said.

“But we have no papers or anything.”

“If we had papers then we would have been alright,” said Paddy.

Kwanlin Dun is cleaning up the land because “it wants to do something positive,” said O’Brien.

“We don’t want to be seen as slumlords.

“Why would anyone want to live down there anyway?” he added.

Out in his yard, Paddy wandered over to an old timber food cache.

There’s a fishtrap inside, made of peeled twigs and sinew.

But that’s not what Paddy wanted to show me.

He pointed to the workbench.

A twig-and-mud nest held three disheveled baby robins, their big eyes staring up at us above large yellow beaks.

“They don’t want to move either,” said Paddy.

“I don’t want them to get crushed.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com