‘This paddle is already sold,” said Terrance Clark, pointing to an unfinished carving of a traditional Tlingit-style oar.
Clark, 27, was commissioned to carve the paddle by a buyer in Toronto who was introduced to his work last year.
When he talks about Sundog Carving Studios receiving the government funding it needs to continue its programming, Clark smiles.
This is where Clark learned how to manipulate hook knives, chisels and saws four years ago.
“Before I started here I was doing odd jobs and partying lots. Now I’m sober and have held down a job for the last year.”
On Tuesday, Yukon government officials announced $345,000 a year over the next three years to support the Journey Far carving program.
“I have seen the advancement of our youth through this program,” said Justice Minister Marian Horne. “The talent these students exude is tremendous.”
The government money will fund 25 youth between the ages of 16 to 30, allowing them to attend beginner and advanced carving programs. The programs are run full-time and provide small stipends to each of the students.
“I can’t say how helpful it is to be able to plan three years in advance and have the services and staffing we need to run the program,” said Sundog co-founder Heather Finton.
Hopefully, the studio will receive further donations to fund an eight- to 10-week course this summer in which students will build a nine-metre-long dugout canoe, she added.
“It would be an opportunity for these youth to learn about traditions that are fast disappearing, and to improve their personal wellness.”
The program is open to all youth, but Sundog works mostly with First Nation students.
“It’s really self-fulfilling to be able to create art in the style and form of our ancestors and to pass it on to others,” says William Callaghan who began carving at Sundog four years ago and now teaches the beginner workshop there.
“It’s the ‘immortal presence,’” he said. “Residential schools tried to wipe out our race, but [with carving] we can show that we’re still here and proud of our culture”.
Each year, more than 30 youth apply for the beginner Journey Far program but only nine are chosen.
The program, begun in 2006, is funded by the Yukon Department of Justice, Health and Social Services and a number of other community donors.
Contact Vivian Belik at