Sourdough sour grapes holds mirror up to community
Let’s start this off with stating that I was born right here in the Yukon.
I have celebrated Rendezvous every single year of my life with the exception of the years I was outside the territory going to school. I grew up with the shufflers, the cabane à sucre, the chainsaw chucking and all of the zaniness that accompanies our winter festival. In 2017 I ran for, and was crowned Rendezvous Queen. I have volunteered in countless years, performed at, and was an eager participant in all that I could be a part of every year.
And I am disgusted.
As I am typing this, there are posts all over the internet, some with over 400 comments attacking Rendezvous for their decision to rebrand the festival, removing the word “sourdough” from their organization. Over 90 per cent of the comments are angry, hateful, and nasty. The few of us who speak up are attacked personally. And this morning I found out that because of the behavior of these people, Rendezvous not only took down their Facebook page, but closed their offices to work from home and protect their staff from the overwhelming amount of cyberbullying and threats to their staff they are receiving.
I was also raised in the early ages of the internet. Once upon a time you could simply go online and hide under a fake name and be as nasty and gross as you wanted to with almost zero repercussions. Cyberbullying wasn’t even recognized as a real issue until around 2007, with federal laws not being enacted in the Canada until 2013. And now we live in an age where our digital presences are completely tied to our actual identity. You think that would make people accountable for their behavior, especially in such a small town. Apparently not. I recognize far too many names and faces of people who seem to not care at all what they are doing to the people who work for Rendezvous.
I am filled with rage. White hot anger that so many have no problem attacking an organization like Rendezvous — not one who is a faceless corporation run by people so out of touch with reality that they may as well have lived in the White House from 2016 to 2020 — but an organization run by people. Our neighbours, family members, friends, and loved ones. When you attack Yukon Rendezvous, you are attacking the people who have put countless hours into making this festival happen. And unless you live under a rock, you know someone who has been a part of Rendezvous.
Shame on all of you. I am so disappointed in my community today.
Sourdough is the Yukon identity for some, reader says
Dear Yukon (Sourdough) Rendezvous and our Yukon community,
To the board and staff of the Yukon (Sourdough) Rendezvous society, I would like to extend my appreciation for your commitment, dedication and wish you safety and strength, as you navigate the turmoil and challenges now facing your organization and the upcoming events we celebrate together.
To the partners, sponsors and volunteers, I hope you can be patient and kind, honest and constructive in your feedback to help to guide YSR through this — as they, and we as a community — will need you in order to move forward together.
To my community, I implore you to engage in this discussion passionately and respectfully. I did not expect to feel as strongly as I do to the proposed name change of Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous to Yukon Rendezvous — and the elimination of the term “sourdough” — for the reasons provided by the leadership.
I am disappointed and appalled at those who choose to express their concerns, frustration, disagreement and disappointment by taking to social media and other means to bully, threaten and any other inappropriate behaviour. There is never rationale to personally or professionally attack anyone — no exceptions.
In our conversations going forward, it is imperative that we are not reductive and oversimplifying this discussion as having only two sides — one which voices “change and inclusiveness” and the other as “racist, prejudiced” and worse.
This is not as simple as a rebranding or a name change of an organization (which has every right to adapt, grow, and change). Rendezvous and Mammoth Agency decided that a word we have embraced, celebrated and promoted, as a key part of our identity as Yukoners, for the better part of a century, is suddenly something to be ashamed of.
By definition a sourdough is someone who becomes a Yukoner after spending a winter here — witnessing a freeze and thaw, getting to know the community, meeting its people and participating in its traditions. A sourdough is a Yukoner we have welcomed and included in our northern community.
Sourdough — the delicious bread — does have a connection to Yukon’s gold rush history (as Stampeders braved the Chilkoot Trail and traveled to Dawson City with balls of sourdough starter in their packs). We can acknowledge that there were both devastating impacts on Indigenous people, and an incredible history, rich with stories that created traditions and shaped who we are today, and how we can learn from our past.
Yukoners celebrate the critical role that Yukon First Nations played in helping those who followed (the rest of us Yukoners), who would not have survived, or thrived without their guidance, support, tradition and culture, and we are still learning from each other today — both the mistakes that were made and how to forge a better path together.
We can celebrate our history and learn from it to do better today.
Sourdough is in the name of some of our favourite businesses, our beloved northern treats, our famous Sourtoe Cocktail — served in the historic Sourdough Saloon, and at its core, was a way of transitioning from being “newcomers” to “Yukoners.”
The concern is not whether this talented, committed, passionate group of people at Rendezvous, who help us break our cabin fever, and bring us together to celebrate Yukon each year, can rebrand, change their name, or otherwise ensure a safe, respectful, inclusive event — it is that a choice was made to turn a key part of our identity into something else — something to be embarrassed and ashamed of — without an understanding of what it would mean to many of us who celebrate being a Yukoner — respecting the land, people, traditions and shared cultures. This was done without enough discussion, education, and certainly not with an inclusive approach. It is time to begin the work of bringing us back together — the most important part of Rendezvous.
I want to have this conversation and understand your perspective, but I expect you will also listen respectfully to mine and to your fellow Yukoners.
I am a Rendezvouser, a community advocate, a diversity and inclusion champion, business leader, a volunteer, a Yukoner — a sourdough.
Anne Turner (Lewis)