Shining a light for Bluefeather

The lead organizer of the Blue Feather Music Festival, happening this Friday and Saturday at the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse, has been doing stage lighting for almost half of his life.

For Gary Bailie, light and art are strongly connected. The lead organizer of the Blue Feather Music Festival, happening this Friday and Saturday at the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse, has been doing stage lighting for almost half of his life. He’s worked at “all the festivals,” Dawson City, Elsa, Frostbite.

“I see it as an art form and it’s something I pursue,” he said.

Despite the long hours – light technicians are the first to come to a show and the last to leave, he said – he believes that art can help save lives.

That’s the inspiration behind the theme of this year’s festival, “Keeper of the flame.”

“Keeper of the flame essentially is keeping your creative fire burning, right, and basically keeping your spirit alive,” said Bailie. The artwork for this year’s event shows an eagle with wings outspread, protecting the heart. In the middle of the heart is a blue feather.

“And the blue feather is actually a symbol of hope,” he said.

For youth especially, art can help protect hope, he says.

It has for him.

Bailie is a member of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Over the past few months, he’s heard of a handful of young people from different First Nations who have committed suicide, he said.

The stories aren’t uncommon – suicide rates among aboriginal youth are high across the country, especially in northern communities, he said.

“Everybody knows somebody, but nobody ever wants to talk about it,” he said.

Bailie understands the hesitation. The questions raised when a young person dies are particularly troubling.

“I always asked myself the question, ‘What’s wrong with our world that young people don’t want to be here?’” he said.

But, at least for him, keeping silent isn’t an option. While now in its twelfth year, the Blue Feather Music Festival was never intended to be a festival. It began as a one-time event, a celebration of life for Jolie Angelina McNabb, his former common-law partner and mother of his daughter. McNabb committed suicide while in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

After her death, Bailie took her body back to Saskatchewan where she was born. McNabb was Cree, a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation. An elder gave her the name Blue Feather Eagle Woman.

“When I started speaking about it, it was hard for me. But every time I spoke about it, I got stronger and it came out a little better. I just knew that it has to be addressed. Nothing in this world ever changes unless people tackle it.”

Despite the festival’s origins, it is an event focused on life, says Bailie. There’s a traditional meal before each show. Each night begins with dancing. The Inland Children Dancers take the stage Friday night and the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers perform on Saturday.

Sierra Noble, a Metis singer-songwriter and fiddle player from Winnipeg, will headline Friday night. George Leach, an actor and guitarist from the Sta’atl’imx Nation in British Columbia, will headline Saturday evening.

Shun Dun from Pelly Crossing will join Jerry Alfred on Friday night. Whitehorse’s Common Knowledge also hits the stage that evening.

On Saturday, Burwash Landing’s Diyet will perform as will Whitehorse band Say No More. That evening also includes a reunion from the Whitehorse band, The Project.

Bailie has watched several performers develop while playing the festival, he said. And working with youth has always been a part of the event. This year will be no exception.

Whitehorse’s Madison Dixon takes the stage for a second year in a row Friday evening. The thirteen-year-old will perform by herself and with her band, Solid Fuel. Her dad, uncle and cousin have all played the festival, she said.

Being part of the festival has taught her a lot about stage presence and performing, said the Grade 9 student from Vanier Catholic Secondary School. “I love it. I love the big stage and all the people,” she said.

Friday night will also include a tribute to Joy Allison, who died this summer. Friday would have been her 21st birthday. Sierra Noble will play Warrior’s Lament for Allison, a piece Noble performed at Vimy Ridge.

“We sort of look at our youth, they’re like our soldiers. We’re like their captains and their generals, and it’s our responsibility to teach them and protect them and lead them,” said Bailie.

If Dixon’s enthusiasm is any indication, the festival is doing that well.

Dixon, who has been taking guitar lessons since she was four, hopes to one day play music full-time. “That’s all I ever want to do,” she said.

Tickets for the festival can be purchased at Arts Underground and the Yukon Arts Centre. Weekend passes are $50. Adult tickets are $30. Tickets for students and elders are $20. Children tickets are $10. Doors open at 6 p.m. The meal begins at 6:30 and the show starts at 7:30.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read