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.

 
 
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Ali Khoda

Artist Ali Khoda moved to the Yukon at age 15 from Qeshm, Iran. Now, Khoda uses art to bridge the gaps between his culture and the Norths. “A big focus of my art is First Nations culture,” Khoda says. “We are both originally from colonized countries and they accepted me with open arms. My art is a way of giving back.”

 
 
 
 

Return of the ‘International Grey Nomads"

On a humid weekday afternoon in early July, the Walmart parking lot is a hub for RVs with names like Wilderness, Spirit and Eagle. A steady stream of vehicles, fresh off the road, are lined up at the gas pumps. Drivers are stretching their legs, walking the short distance into the Walmart to pick up whatever they’ve been missing on the road. Since Whitehorse’s first Walmart opened in 2001, RV park owners have voiced concerns about lost revenue — a sentiment that many of Whitehorse’s independent businesses shared when the big-box giant opened.

 
 
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Trolley

Douglas Trim is the trolley conductor for the popular tourist attraction that runs alongside  the Yukon River in downtown Whitehorse. The job is always entertaining, he says. A few summers ago, he relates, he spotted a pair of boots sticking up from under the tracks. “I turned to the young lady I was working with, and I said, ‘Go out there and check if there’s a dead guy under there!’ But she said, ‘No, no no!’ So I said, ‘Yeah, it’s your job to check if there’s a dead guy under there,’” Trim says with a laugh. “But I ran out there and checked, like the good guy I am, and it was just a pair of boots. It sure looked like a dead guy.”

 
 
 

Crafting an Ulu

Roberts, born in Cree Nation, has lived in Whitehorse for 28 years and has practiced the craft of knife making for 40. His craft has led him throughout northern Canada and the world. Roberts says travel has led him to form connections to a broader artistic community. “Through that I have met quite a few other artists,” he says. “I’ve taken what they taught me and I’ve incorporated in what I do and vice versa. It’s an exchange of knowledge and enhancements to your art form.”  

 
 

making the things were proud of

At Twisted Wood Works in Whitehorse, an array of wooden items are for sale. Their makers; all young creatives who have also face mental or physical challenges in their life. Read more about their stories and how their projects have helped them give back to the community.

 
 

Mitten Making 

Sherri Herman, visiting from Fort McMurray, Alta., chose red for the start of her handmade mittens. The workshop she is attending is tucked away in a corner of the Adäka festival, where Dolores Scheffen and her daughter Allison patiently meander around the table, teaching the art of mitten-making step by step...

 
 
 

Eugene Alfred: carver and sculptor

Eugene Alfred, a carver and sculptor of Northern Tutchone and Tlingit ancestry, showcases his craft at the Adäka Cultural Festival on July 2. His current project is a carving which honours Beaver Man, an important figure in Alfred’s Indigenous history who had the body of a man, but the tail and teeth of a beaver.

 
 
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The Woman's Knife

The dust that covers the table saw looks like a dark sawdust, so potent participants wore masks to protect their lungs from the fine dust of the caribou bone they were carving. At the Adäka Cultural Festival, the public had the opportunity to take part in making a traditional Ulu — also known as the Woman’s Knife — a tool used in Inuit culture to prepare animal hides, meats and innards. 

 
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Glasswork

A glasswork artist facilitated a collective mosaic piece featuring elements of life in different parts of the North. “While people work on it, they talk and they share… It’s just kind of an idea of people working on things. It just comes together in the end.”

 
 
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Connecting through food

Off the Hook Meat Works brings together hunters, farmers and locals in Whitehorse. For Kolaritsch, grinding meat in the summer has its ups and downs. On the one hand, the grinding process equals freezing hands. But the cool air of the freezer is soothing during the rare times when Whitehorse experiences heat.

 
 
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a labour of love and respect

Vanessa Ӕgirsdóttir is a textile designer weaving a traditional robe in the Ravenstail weaving pattern. It will be used by her partner who will dance with it with the Teslin Dancers and Dakka Kwaan Dancers. Ӕgirsdóttir says the knowledge of Ravenstail weaving was lost, but it’s now experiencing a resurgence as the knowledge is being shared, including with people like her outside the First Nations community.

 
 

Sewing: One woman’s journey to healing

Shirley Kakfwi started crafting little necklaces when she was eight years old, mostly out of boredom at residential school. There were no games or cellphones at the time. Even if they had existed, Kakfwi says, First Nations children would not have been allowed to use them anyway. She is now able to sew almost anything: slippers, vests, knife holders, moccasins and more. “Although it requires a lot of patience, sewing is my passion now.”

 
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Molten Glass

Step inside the door’s of Lumel Studios, Yukon’s first glass-blowing facility, and watch the process of two sisters make their first piece of glass.

 

 
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Goldsmith

The Klondike Gold Rush, which began in the final years of the 19th century and lasted well into the 20th, brought tens of thousands of prospective gold miners – then known as stampeders – to the Yukon from across Canada, the U.S., and the world. Although the Gold Rush ended over a century ago, its make-or-break legacy lives on in small Yukon goldsmith studios like Ashley and Rivest’s.

 
 
 

Cultural connections

From the visual art to the ceremonial songs and dances, Whitehorse’s eight annual Adäka Festival was a culturally rich environment, demonstrating Indigenous art from all over the world.

 
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ADaKA VOLUNTEERS

"You don't feel like you're on somebody else's turf. You just come to see what they do, you come to see how they create art, how they interact, how they deal with their life." -Mike Ivens

 
 
 
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Itsy-Bitys Yarn

Heather Sealey, originally from Manitoba, holds a Master’s degree in environmental geochemistry but for a time, struggled to find work. When the previous owners of Itsy-Bitsy Yarn Store put it up for sale to fulfilled their own dream of purchasing a sailboat, Sealey jumped at the chance to pursue yarn.