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

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 announce the first COVID-19 related death in a press conference announcement Friday morning. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
UPDATED: Yukon announces first COVID-19-related death

The person was an older Watson Lake resident with underlying health conditions, officials said

Wyatt's World for Oct. 30.

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 30

Health Minister Pauline Frost insists no one who shows up at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter for dinner will go without a meal, despite no drop-in dinner service being offered starting on Nov. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Non-profits concerned as Whitehorse Emergency Shelter ends drop-in dinner service

Minister Pauline Frost insists everyone who needs one ‘will be provided with a meal.’

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29. Affordability challenges is being described as being among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the north in a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Home, rent prices increasing in Whitehorse, northern housing report says

Affordability continues to be a major challenge, report says

Premier Sandy Silver talks to media in Whitehorse on March 19. According to the premier, who is also the finance minister, the Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, instead of the surplus it had originally predicted. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in 2019-2020

Deficit attributed to lower-than-expected revenue, higher expenses on health and social side

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and management roundtable discussion Sept. 26, 2019. During an Oct. 29 meeting, Constable highlighted a number of potential changes to the City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Work on City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw continues

Officials will look at procedures for other municipalities

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. Hanley said the source of the outbreak in Watson Lake may not ever be found, but contact tracing in the community continues. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
New Whitehorse COVID-19 case is unrelated to Watson Lake cluster, officials say

Chief medical officer of health says avoid indoor Halloween parties, monitor for symptoms

Joel Krahn/Yukon News file Whitehorse City Hall.
Whitehorse city council, briefly

Updates on matters before city council on Oct. 26

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
GoFundMe for Whitehorse boy hit by car on Range Road raises more than $62k in a day

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

Most Read