Restored artwork is unveiled on the side of the freshly repainted Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in Whitehorse on Sept. 10, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Skookum Jim Friendship Centre unveils restored crests

Tlingit carver and painter Keith Wolfe Smarch restored killer whale, eagle on outside of building

A beloved Yukon hub is looking new again.

Whitehorse’s Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, long a place for Yukon First Nations citizens and other Indigenous people in the territory to gather and find supports, has received a new coat of paint.

Tlingit carver and painter Keith Wolfe Smarch has also restored two crests that grace the front of the centre on Third Avenue — a killer whale and eagle, symbols of the Dak`laweidí clan that both Smarch and the centre’s namesake belong to.

The restored crests were unveiled at a ceremony the morning of Sept. 10, their teal, bright-red and black accents refreshed and now covered by a protective layer to preserve their colours.

Smarch himself was unable to attend the ceremony as he had harvested a sheep the night before. However, several Yukon officials spoke about the importance of the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in the community.

“It’s about connection. It’s about who we are,” Assembly of First Nations Yukon regional chief Kluane Adamek, who had previously worked at the centre as a summer student coordinator, told a small crowd. “So, Skookum Jim is a symbol of that.”

MP Larry Bagnell, who served as the centre’s president and chair of finance, as well as Yukon deputy premier Ranj Pillai, both touched upon the facility’s unique position of being able to bring people together.

Tlingit carver and painter Keith Wolfe Smarch’s restored eagle art on the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in Whitehorse on Sept. 10, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Tlingit carver and painter Keith Wolfe Smarch’s restored killer whale art on the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in Whitehorse on Sept. 10, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

“There’s many places in this city where individuals will go to seek support and help but when you walk in that door, you know that it’s going to be comfortable, you know that people are not going to be judgmental and you know that people are going to open their arms,” Pillai said.

“… And we need more of that in the world.”

Maria Benoit, the centre’s former executive director, recalled initially hiring Smarch to create the first copies of the crest.

“When we first hired Keith to do these designs, we asked him, ‘Well, what colours?’” she recalled.

“… Keith was the one that instrumented the colours and the design and he said, ‘We have to go with the Tlingit colours.’”

Those colours are teal green and red, the same colours that coat the exterior of the building.

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis commended Smarch’s “tremendous work” on restoring the crests, and said that they carry a “tremendously strong message to our entire community and beyond our community.”

He highlighted the city’s policy requiring one per cent of construction costs for new buildings to be allocated towards public artwork, and said that he hoped more Indigenous artists would start looking towards the city for funding.

He noted several murals the city already has, including one on the Yukon Chamber of Mines building featuring Kate Carmacks, and the one on the side of Staples featuring Wendy and Angel Carlick.

“They’re all very important, they’re all very significant, I think we need more of them,” Curtis said of the murals. “I really hope that more organizations will consider adding cultural artworks to the exterior of their buildings as well, because we know the Yukon’s not just about the gold rush. I’d like to see every single museum, every place of history giving that history the respect that it deserves.”

The Skookum Jim Friendship Centre is also in the process of restoring other pieces of artwork within its building.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

A pedestrian passes by an offsales sandwich board along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 22. NDP MLA Liz Hanson raised concerns Oct. 21 in the legislature about increased hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption that correlate with an extension in the hours alcohol can be sold in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Alcohol-related hospitalizations rise after off-sales hours extended

Reduced hours for off-sale liquor establishments likely part of Liquor Act spring reforms

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Whitehorse sewage lagoons photographed in 2011. With new regulations for wastewater anticipated to be introduced by the federal government within the next decade, the City of Whitehorse may soon be doing some prep work by looking at exactly what type of pollutants are making their way into the city’s wastewater. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Pondering pollutants

City could spend $70,000 looking at what contaminents are in waste water

Most of Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 graduates. The former students were welcomed back and honoured by staff at the school on Oct. 14 with a personalized grad ceremony for each graduate. (Submitted)
Individual Learning Centre grads honoured

Members of the Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 were welcomed… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Most Read