The culture of the Arctic Winter Games

Cultural events are as much a part of the Arctic Winter Games as the sporting competitions. As hundreds of athletes from nine different regions gather in Whitehorse for the Games this March...

Cultural events are as much a part of the Arctic Winter Games as the sporting competitions.

As hundreds of athletes from nine different regions gather in Whitehorse for the Games this March, they will be accompanied by musicians, performers and artists who help to keep the overall culture of the North alive.

Both the opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the Canada Games Centre. But unlike anything before, these games will open with a song relay. Just as the Olympic torch is carried around by athletes leading up to the games, a song written by the Yukon’s Root Sellers has been taken around the North.

“We wanted to do something to build excitement in all the various regions of the Games in the year leading up to it,” said Daniel Ashley, the relay’s artistic director and member of Root Sellers.

“Currently, it’s on its last leg here in the Yukon … and it’s all going to be coming together at the opening ceremonies. We think of this song as a symbolic fire that represents the spirit of sport and that engagement with the Games from across the North.

“We’re going to basically unite all of these voices from across the North and simultaneously we’re going to be playing the video we gathered so each participant is going to be able to see their home region in this video as we’re singing this song, which is the theme song for the Arctic Winter Games. And at the finale of that giant, musical number, we’re going to ignite the Arctic Winter Games’ torch.”

The opening ceremonies will start at 6 p.m. on Sunday,

March 4.

The second night of entertainment will be at the Yukon Arts Centre and is designed to give a more backyard campfire feeling. It features ColdSpell: How We Winter. That’s a production of folksy, fun musicians and performers including a house band with Ryan McNally, Dave Haddock, Rob Bergman, Andrea McColeman and Lonnie Powell.

Outsiders, like the New Pornographers’ Kathryn Calder and dobro player Tim Jeffery, will be joining in the ode to cabin fever. Vancouver’s Cris Derkson will share an interesting and compelling new take on classic cello by merging it with the technology of a loop pedal, and Toronto’s Jen Georgopoulos will show off her aerial silks skills.

A few other locals will round out the night. Brian Fidler will offer up some original puppetry and Moira Sauer’s short film, The Provider, will be shown.

On March 8 and 9, youth performers from all across the North will take over the arts centre stage to showcase a mix of contemporary and traditional music, dance and storytelling. North America’s First Nation and Inuit performers will be matched with those from Yamal, Russia, Greenland and the indigenous Sami people from northern Europe. The Sami region stretches across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Other cultural events include the Dene Games competition at the Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s new cultural centre. An evening of traditional song, dance, arts and crafts will be held there on March 7. Sewing Our Traditions: Dolls of Canada’s North will also be on display at the centre.

The winner of the Western Music Awards’ francophone recording of the year, Freynet, will be performing at the Francophonie Centre on Strickland Street on March 7.

Visual artists from across the Circumpolar North will create a new piece during the week at Arts Underground. The public is invited to watch the artists at work on March 3, 5 and 6 and attend the final reveal on March 8 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. There will also be musical artists at the gallery space everyday of the week at lunch.

The MacBride Museum is also getting involved in the excitement. It will highlight special historical sports games and its photo exhibit of “Bill MacBride’s Yukon” from the early 1950s will be on display at the Hougen Heritage Gallery at Arts Underground.

The gallery at the Yukon Arts Centre will also feature its exhibit, the Untrue North.

The Yukon snow-carving team will be sculpting at the Canada Games Centre and in front of the White Pass Building on Main Street. There will be daily musical performances at Baked Cafe and the Canada Games Centre.

The closing ceremonies will start at 6 p.m. on March 10. Tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies are $40 or $35 for children and seniors and can be purchased at Sportslife or by calling 1-888-707-2012 if you are from outside Whitehorse. Tickets for the two evening shows at the Yukon Arts Centre are $35 for adults and $30 for children and seniors. They can be bought at the centre’s box office, Arts Underground or online at

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at