2014 Yukon Heritage Award Recipients Announced

31st annual Yukon Heritage Awards Announced - Recipients to receive top honours in heritage


The Yukon Historical & Museums Association (YHMA) today announced the winners of the 31st annual Yukon Heritage Awards.

“These annual awards honour those that work to inspire and share a passion for Yukon heritage through protection, conservation, interpretation and volunteerism,” said YHMA President Sally Robinson. “YHMA is both thrilled and honoured to recognize the accomplishments of these well-deserving recipients.”

The 2014 Yukon Heritage Awards will be presented in conjunction with a celebration of Heritage Day on Monday, February 16, 2015 at the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse. Doors open at 5:30 pm and the event will commence at 6:00 pm. Jim Mountain, Director of Regeneration Projects with the Heritage Canada National Trust, will deliver a keynote presentation to celebrate this year’s Heritage Day theme of  “Main Streets: at the heart of our communities.” This year's recipients include:

Kitty Sperling and the Ross River Bridge Society will receive the 2014 Annual Heritage Award for their successful efforts to save the Ross River suspension bridge from demolition. Originally built by the US military in 1942, the bridge is widely acknowledged as an engineering marvel, and has served as an important connection across the Pelly River for locals and visitors alike. After the Yukon Government declared their intention to demolish and remove the bridge entirely in 2012, the local community, the Ross River Dena Council and other concerned Yukoners formed the Friends of the Ross River Bridge society. Through a combination of passion, engagement, and organization, the Friends galvanized public support for their cause, garnering national media attention. Despite numerous setbacks and uncertainties along the way, the Friends and their supporters have remained unflaggingly positive and constructive.  When demolition seemed imminent, the Friends organized and sustained non-confrontational protests, with a little fun, a little curling, and a lot of community participation and solidarity along the way.  Their approach ensured maintenance of goodwill and dialogue, and was ultimately successful; demolition was first postponed, then deferred, then cancelled.

While protecting Yukon’s heritage will never be an easy task, the approaches and success of the Friends of the Ross River Foot Bridge serves as inspiration and guidance for the territory’s heritage community. 

The Watson Lake Historical Society has been awarded the 2014 Helen Couch Volunteer of the Year Award for their ongoing efforts to protect, conserve and share the history of Watson Lake. The Society has become an active volunteer organization over the past few years, working to successfully designate the Watson Lake Signpost Forest as a Yukon Historic Site, repairing displays at the Watson Lake Airport, conducting inventories and research in support of the Alaska Highway National Historic Site nomination, and successfully saving a 1940s era building from demolition. The enthusiasm and dedication of the Watson Lake Historical Society to protecting, conserving and celebrating the region’s history serves as a model of volunteerism for the Territory.

Casey McLaughlin is the recipient of the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. Casey demonstrated meritorious service to Yukon heritage and YHMA over a period of many years. A born-and-raised Yukoner, Casey McLaughlin studied art history and anthropology at Simon Fraser University before beginning a career in heritage. During her tenure as Executive Director at the Yukon Transportation Museum from 2007-2014, Casey created a fun, safe and creative environment while directing the museum through its rebranding and actively encouraging young Yukoners to develop their heritage skills. In addition to her professional work, Casey has a long volunteer service record with the YHMA, including serving as its President. Casey’s professional accomplishments, extensive volunteerism, and personal dedication to the Yukon heritage field are an inspiration for all Yukoners with a passion for heritage.

Leo Martel has been awarded the 2014 Heritage Conservation Project of the Year, sponsored by the Yukon Government Tourism and Culture Department, Historic Sites Unit, for the restoration of the Keno City Hotel. In 2014, Leo and Marc Martel defied all the odds when they opened the Keno City Hotel for business after a multi-year hiatus. After acquiring the building around 2008, Leo and Marc have been putting their heart and soul, blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of money, into the rambling, very historic hotel. The continued hard work, dedication and enthusiasm of Leo and Marc remind us that there’s no such thing as impossible!


For more information, please contact:

Nancy Oakley, Executive Director, Yukon Historical & Museums Association

(867) 667-4704 | info@heritageyukon.ca

More information on past recipients can be found here.