Handing down traditions


In Southern Tutchone, Adäka translates to "coming into the light." This photo essay aims to shine a light on the workmanship of the arts of Yukon First Nations people by photographing the hands of participants at the annual festival.

Näts'ay dihch'e Creations: Melanie Bennett begins every morning by beading, a tradition taught to her by her grandmother. For Bennett, beading is a way to honour her family and meditate. "For me, it's like a prayer," she says. "I just think about the person I'm beading for and sew good wishes into every piece. If I do that in the morning then I know I'll have a good day, too.”

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At nine years old, Ella Johnston is the youngest participant at this year's Adäka festival. She makes moccasin and doll-shaped jewelry from clay.

Her father, Peter Johnston, is Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations. He makes fur earrings beside her.

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Gerald Etzerza fiddles traditional folk songs in the elders’ tent for those young and old who stop by.

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Lorraine Wolfe, a Tlingit carver, shaves a block of wood into an eagle icon. Wolfe, who learned how to carve only two years ago, says she decided to learn the craft "because we can now."

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After learning to carve at a workshop, Duran Henry now gives his time to the Northern Cultural Expression Society to teach others the craft. In the photo above, he uses sandpaper to smooth the dish spoon he made earlier in the day.

Festival-goer Gwen Piwowar uses some of the tools available to recycle rusted spikes for a canoe he is building from scratch.

Lena Moon travelled from the Yukon community of Teslin to attend the festival. She says she learned how to sew from her mother, who taught her how to survive off the land from a young age.

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Rosalind Mercredi is a glass artist from the Northwest Territories. She's shaping cut pieces of glass into an igloo while helping other participants of the festival add their own design to the mural. At the end of the festival, the mural will be grouted and gifted to the community centre.

Gertie Tom makes baby moccasins and smiles at anyone who stops by her booth. Crafting has been a lifelong passion for Tom. "I've been beading since I was seven, and I'll be beading till I can't see no more."

Cat Kelly