Five recipients to be honoured with 2023 Heritage Awards

We are pleased to announce the five recipients of the annual Yukon Heritage Awards, who will be honoured at our upcoming awards ceremony on Monday, February 19, 2024.

Yukoners are invited to attend the ceremony in person at the Yukon Archives or livestreamed on the YHMA Facebook page here. The event will start at 7 pm, with doors opening at the Yukon Archives at 6:45 pm. No registration is required.

Instead of granting an Annual Heritage Award, YHMA is pleased to be honour two individuals with History Maker Awards. A Helen Couch Volunteer of the Year Award; Innovation, Education, and Community Engagement Award; and Heritage Conservation Project of the Year Award will also be presented.

Prior to the awards presentation, guest speaker Gùdia – Mary Jane Johnson will give a talk entitled Kwadą̄y dän yeshäw shàwthan k’e – Will You Be a Good Ancestor? A reception will follow the ceremony.

Ruth Armson will receive a History Maker Award in recognition of her work preserving the stories of individual Yukoners. Following a successful, thirty-plus year career as a teacher who passionately shared history with her students, Ruth set up a memoir-writing group for seniors which led to multiple publications of family histories. She herself has published an autobiography and two biographies for Yukon seniors. Ruth also co-authored, with Yann Herry, the book La francophonie : une richesse nordique = Northern Portraits and through her involvement with the Pioneer Women of the Yukon Society, Lodge #2 has helped produce over 100 biographies of Yukon women and two published booklets, North to New Horizons, Volume 1 (2022) and Volume 2 (2023).

A second History Maker Award will be granted to the late John Layman, who left an indelible mark on the territory through his extensive involvement in various artistic endeavours. John’s remarkable calligraphy and signs can be seen throughout the Yukon and have become part of our communities’ identities. From calligraphy to intricately sandblasted cedar signs, his craftsmanship graces neighbourhoods, parks, municipalities, and other significant heritage landmarks. John also left deep and meaningful impressions on countless musicians from the Yukon and beyond through his work in music. Beyond his artistic achievements, John was a proud Yukoner who warmly welcomed many newcomers to the North, fostering a sense of community and connection, teaching a respect for Northern heritage, and helping to make the Yukon what it is today.

Harris Cox will receive the Helen Couch Volunteer of the Year Award for his work with the Yukon Transportation Museum (YTM). Harris has volunteered at, and donated artifacts to, the YTM periodically over the past decade with an intensifying of his volunteering over the past year. In 2023, he donated a tote full of slides to the YTM, which the museum then scanned. The collection represents a treasure trove of images of the Yukon from the 1950s to the 1990s and Harris has been working with museum staff weekly, reviewing the scans and identifying the places, people, and events they represent. His extensive experience and dedication make Harris a volunteer advocate for the Yukon and a community memory reservoir worthy of recognition.

This year’s Innovation, Education, and Community Engagement Award will be presented to Shot in the Dark Productions for their 2023 film, Signal Fire. This documentary takes its themes and ideas from an academic paper called “Toward Reconciliation: 10 calls to Action to Natural Scientists Working in Canada.” Both the paper and film focus on restoring balance in the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. Shot in the Dark Productions worked with the authors of the paper and others to illustrate how the relationship between researchers and Indigenous communities must be on a path of mutual respect. Signal Fire serves to spread the word to researchers in all disciplines that developing and sustaining healthy, vibrant communities means embracing many forms of wisdom and dialogue, and that how research is conducted, and with whom, matters as much as the focus of the research.

The Yukon Film Society (YFS) will be honoured with the Heritage Conservation Project of the Year Award for their conservation of the Yukon Theatre’s historic neon sign. Throughout the project the YFS has shown a passion for restoring this cherished landmark of downtown Whitehorse. The goal of the Society’s conservation project was to repaint the Yukon Theatre signage in its original 1954 colours and to repair the sign’s neon lettering. This restoration project was successful in following the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada though the historical research, planning, and documentation of the project. This project has helped to preserve this iconic mid-century movie house and one of the last remaining neon façades in Whitehorse. The Heritage Conservation Project of the Year award is sponsored by the Department of Tourism and Culture, Government of Yukon.

Award descriptions and details of previous award recipients can be found here.