2015 Yukon Heritage Award recipients announced

The Yukon Historical & Museums Association (YHMA) today announced the winners of the 32nd 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 2015 Yukon Heritage Awards will be presented in conjunction with a celebration of Heritage Day on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse. Doors open at 5:30 pm and the event will commence at 6:00 pm. Local historian David Neufeld will deliver a keynote presentation to celebrate this year’s Heritage Day theme of “Distinctive Destinations: Experience Historic Places.”

The 2015 Yukon Heritage Award recipients include:

Pat Ellis will receive the Annual Heritage Award. Over the years Pat has been tireless in preserving, documenting, and presenting the stories of Yukon’s history, especially the lesser-known stories. Throughout the past five years Pat has made outstanding contributions to the preservation of Yukon’s heritage. Most recently in 2015, Pat published a book on The Squatters of Downtown Whitehorse. It was the culmination of years of research and hard work.

Pat recognized that this was a forgotten period in the development of Whitehorse. There was little written about the people who lived in those communities, other than passing references in other publications. Pat also recognized that many of the squatters are now in their 70s and 80s, and if their stories were going to be told it would have to be done soon.

Over two years she scoured the Yukon Archives, City of Whitehorse Archives and the Lands Branch Archives, drew from her own memories, and collected anecdotes and photographs from former squatters and their families. In November 2015, she self-published a book entitled The Squatters of Downtown Whitehorse. The 60-page paperback outlines the political and social events leading up to the squatter settlements and it tells of the personal struggles of the people who lived in Whitehorse at the time.

Pat’s book brought these and other lesser-known stories to the forefront. People who lived in the squatter areas are able to see their stories in print, and newcomers who did not know about that part of the history now have a valuable resource.

The book was launched at MacBride Museum in November 2015, and more than 140 people came out to share their stories and show their support. The Squatters of Downtown Whitehorse has since become a local favourite and a MacBride Museum bestseller. More than 500 of the books have been sold to date.

The Diocese of Yukon has been awarded the Heritage Conservation Project of the Year, sponsored by the Yukon Government Tourism and Culture Department, Historic Sites Unit. The award is presented to the Diocese of Yukon for the continued conservation and restoration of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Dawson City. Built in 1902, St. Paul’s Anglican Church is a significant example of frontier mission architecture in the Gothic Revival StyleDesignated a National Historic Site in 1989, the Church’s prominent location on Front Street in Dawson and its impressive architecture have made the church an important component of the Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site. St. Paul’s, which took the place of an earlier log building on the same site, is a symbol of the long-standing presence of the Anglican Church in Canada’s north. It has been in continuous use as a church since its construction.

The Diocese has shown tremendous commitment to the preservation of this important landmark through years of conservation and maintenance. Over the past year the Diocese of Yukon undertook extensive repairs to the roof, eavestrough and exterior sidings as well as restoration of the historic wood windows while abiding by the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada to ensure the heritage value of St. Paul’s Church is maintained for present and future generations.

Bryan Clayson has been awarded the Helen Couch Volunteer of the Year Award. Bryan has been an integral part of the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society for many years, and his love for streetcars and his mechanical skills have lovingly kept the 90 year old Whitehorse Waterfront Trolley functioning for over 15 years. Although Bryan lives out on the Carcross Road, on many occasions and on any day of the week he has driven in to town to service the trolley. Every summer, he mentors young staff in the mechanics of the diesel generator and general maintenance and operations in the Roundhouse.

Although the trolley is not originally from the Yukon, its route along the waterfront on the old White Pass and Yukon Route narrow gauge rails contributes greatly to the education of thousands of tourists and locals alike.  Riding the trolley provides an opportunity to learn about the history of downtown Whitehorse from Whiskey Flats to Shipyards Park to Spook Creek.  This attraction continues to bring smiles to everyone who sees it.  And thanks to the tireless work of Mr. Clayson, it is one that we will enjoy for years to come.

The Hidden Histories Society Yukon will receive the Innovation, Education and Community Engagement Award. Through a series of projects that span 15 years, HHSY has brought to light aspects of the Yukon’s rich social cultural communities through exhibits and special events. It has reached out to the corners of the community to engage and involve them in celebrating the Yukon’s rich heritage together.

HHSY sponsors research, displays and events mainly in Yukon communities.  HHSY aims to enlarge the representation of Asian, Black and other ethno-cultural people in the documentation and interpretation of Yukon history.  They strive to bring forward the stories and life experiences of these individuals and groups so that they see themselves reflected appropriately in the telling of Yukon’s history.  The results they believe will enrich Yukon’s social, cultural and economic foundations.

This work has included producing and circulating portable display panels and online exhibits on Black and Asian Yukon history, offering oral history workshops, coordinating CBC book discussions, speakers and films for Black and Asian history months, along with school presentations and cemetery visits to respect Yukon Black and Asian pioneers. They have also worked with a broad group of community partners to undertake these activities, from the Yukon Human Rights Commission to the National Association of Japanese Canadians.


Nancy Oakley

Executive Director, Yukon Historical & Museums Association

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

More information on past recipients can be found on our website: www.heritageyukon.ca