Sundog carved down

The future of the Sundog Carving Studio is in question after territorial funding for the nonprofit organization was cut off this spring. In November, the organization was given a $145,000 grant from the territory to hire counsellors and carving instructors.

The future of the Sundog Carving Studio is in question after territorial funding for the nonprofit organization was cut off this spring.

In November, the organization was given a $145,000 grant from the territory to hire counsellors and carving instructors for its advanced carver program.

The understanding was the money would be renewed in April.

But that didn’t happen. Now the centre, which uses traditional First Nation carving as a method to build life skills and confidence in youth, is looking at ways to trim its budget.

“It means we’re just going to have to cut staff,” said co-owner Andrew Finton. “It’s not good news for us.”

Sundog has already taken out ads to rent out the carving studio space.

“The landlords have been hounding us to know whether we’ll be around come June,” said Finton.

“We haven’t been able to afford to renew our lease.”

The Justice Department funnels $345,000 a year towards the Journey Far advanced carver program.

This covers the cost of materials and rent as well as a monthly stipend paid to each of the advanced carvers for the work they do.

But that leaves little more than $100,000 to pay seven staff for the year-long course, said Finton.

With the money they receive now, the group can’t afford a full-time carver.

“What school has an instructor come in for one week every six weeks?” said Finton.

It also isn’t enough to hire badly needed counsellors and life coaches for the students.

The money the territory provided this fall made a significant difference to the program, he said.

“Before there were several jobs that weren’t being done as well as they should have been because we were just too strapped for time.”

He sees the shortage indicative of the overall lack of funding going into First Nation programming in the territory.

The Yukon needs to be doing more for First Nation youth, he said, citing a 65 per cent dropout rate among aboriginal students.

Finton and his wife, Heather, who co-runs Sundog, figure the organization needs an additional $400,000 a year to be financially sustainable.

The government has offered $75,000 to help pay for rent this year, but the money won’t be renewed come 2011. That means another staff position will have to be cut next year, said Andrew Finton.

The couple is now talking about stepping back from their administrative positions so money from their jobs can be used to pay for other staff.

“The question is, can we keep parts of our programming running without adequate funding?” said Heather Finton.

If Sundog doesn’t receive increased funding for the Journey Far program it may have to be discontinued, she said.

That worries many students and their parents.

Many of the students who attend Sundog struggle with addictions, lack of housing and low self-esteem.

Sundog’s success has been its ability to take students who can’t apply themselves in high school and give them new direction in life, said parent Dianne Villeseche.

Her own daughter left high school at the age of 16. Now Villeseche’s daughter carves full time with Sundog where she has learned to hone her artistic skills and build her confidence. After three years at the studio, she’s working to graduate from high school and has plans to turn her carving into a full-time career.

“This program is teaching her how to make a living,” said Villeseche.

“It’s brought up her self-esteem to a point where she’s helping herself now.”

Last week, Heather Finton gathered the 20 advanced carvers in a circle and told them their funding wasn’t going to be renewed next year.

The news wasn’t taken lightly.

“I was crying, I was really sad,” said Bianca Martin, who has been a carver at Sundog for four years.

“I know Andrew had a vision to have this place going for the next 20 years.”

The 15 carvers in the advanced carving program have drafted a petition calling on the government to provide sufficient funding to the carving studio.

“This course has given so much to the community,” said 21-year-old Ben Gribben.

“It’s about taking an average person and transforming them into something more. I’m a vision of that.

“I wouldn’t have known about my (First Nation) culture if Andrew and Heather hadn’t taken me in.”

This week the board of directors is expected to decide how it will re-jig its budget to deal with the shortage of funding.

Justice officials declined to comment before the board makes it decision.

However, they did note Ottawa had provided $2.6 million to the carving program over the next five years. But that grant can only be used for new projects. It can’t be used to pay for existing projects, such as the Journey Far Advanced Carving Program.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Most Read