35th Annual Yukon Heritage Award Winners Announced

Five recipients to receive top honours in heritage

WHITEHORSE, YT - The Yukon Historical & Museums Association (YHMA) today announced the winners of the 35th annual Yukon Heritage Awards. Yukoners are invited to attend the Awards ceremony at the Yukon Archives on Monday, February 18, 2019. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event will commence at 7:00 p.m.

“These annual awards honour those who have made exceptional contributions to Yukon heritage, enriching our community for all Yukoners,” says YHMA Executive Director Lianne Maitland. “This year we are excited to present these awards to five diverse recipients, each of whom has contributed in a very different way.”

As in previous years, the event will coincide with the start of Heritage Week, February 18-24. To mark the occasion, JJ, Dustyn, and Joshua Van Bibber will give a special presentation celebrating the legacy of their great grandfather, JJ Van Bibber, a prominent First Nations hunter, trapper, photographer, and storyteller. As they reflect upon JJ Van Bibber’s vivid stories and extensive collection of photographs, his great grandsons will demonstrate how he exemplified the national theme, “Heritage: The Tie that Binds,” by connecting his past with the future and creating a sense of belonging and understanding for his family.

The Annual Heritage Award will be presented to Murray Lundberg. Murray has traveled far and wide throughout the territory, always with camera in hand, visiting the sites of many historical features, taking pictures, and documenting them, then sharing the information with the public through a variety of resources. Murray is the author of three books featuring Yukon history; creator of the ExploreNorth website, which consists of almost 7,000 pages of information and more than 40,000 files on Yukon and Alaska History that are regularly used by countless researchers and interested people; and founder of the immensely popular Yukon History and Abandoned Places Facebook group. A dynamic forum for people interested in Yukon history to exchange information and share experiences, this group saw dramatic growth in 2018, closing the year with well over 10,000 members. Murray’s work continues to preserve and promote Yukon heritage for the enjoyment of all.

A posthumous History Maker Award will be presented to Gordon Mervin Toole, a long-time Yukoner who helped make the Yukon what it is today through his outstanding contributions to meteorology, aviation, wilderness tourism, big game outfitting, trapping, and farming. Gordon is perhaps best known for recording the lowest official temperature ever measured in North America, -81.4˚F (-63˚C), on February 3, 1947 at Snag, Yukon, in his role as meteorologist for the Canadian Department of Transport. He later became a founding partner and pilot for the Watson Lake Flying Service; the owner/operator of Thunderbird Fishing camp, then the only registered fly-fishing camp in the Yukon; a big game outfitter; the owner/operator of several traplines and a farm near Watson Lake; and Justice of the Peace and Coroner for Watson Lake. While he passed away on November 9, 2018, Gordon’s legacy as a History Maker remains.

Bruce Barrett will be receiving the Helen Couch Volunteer of the Year Award. Bruce has dedicated many years of his life to the heritage community in Yukon, both throughout his career and by generously giving his time in a volunteer capacity, whether as a photographer, advocate, or even actor. He has acted as the unofficially official photographer for YHMA, chronicling many of the organization’s special events over the years. In addition, Bruce spent time volunteering with ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) Canada, sharing northern perspectives with the national heritage community. Bruce has also been an avid participant in the Yukon music and theatrical scenes, and in 2017 loaned his acting talents to an interactive performance fundraiser for the Old Log Church Museum. He continues to volunteer for a variety of organizations.

This year’s Innovation, Education, and Community Engagement Award will be presented to Association franco-yukonnaise for De fil en histoires: les personnages d’un territoire/ Stitches in Time: Yukon History Makers. Through this project, AFY has paid tribute to the Francophones who helped shape the Yukon, connecting participants and the public with both the territory’s Francophone history and the traditional craft of dollmaking. Led by local artist Cécile Girard, 19 community members created a total of 21 handcrafted dolls representing real French-speaking Yukoners, past and present. The dolls and their stories were then highlighted through three bilingual exhibitions, in Dawson City, Haines Junction, and Whitehorse, as well as a bilingual website, video, and printed catalogue. AFY is currently working to adapt the project for use in schools. De fil en histoires highlights the diversity of Yukon’s history and culture, and demonstrates AFY’s commitment to raising awareness about Yukon’s Francophone heritage.

The Heritage Conservation Project of the Year Award will be presented to the Yukon Church Heritage Society (YCHS) for the conservation of the Old Log Church and Rectory in Whitehorse. Constructed in 1900 and 1901 respectively, these buildings are among the oldest buildings in Whitehorse and are landmarks in the community. The Old Log Church served as a place of worship in Whitehorse for 60 years before being repurposed as a museum in 1962. In 2014, the Old Log Church and Rectory were designated a Yukon Historic Site and municipal historic site. The YCHS was formed in 1982 to restore and preserve the buildings and to operate the Old Log Church Museum. They have shown great stewardship of the buildings through respectful use, care, and maintenance, and through various conservation projects. In 2018, work focused on the rectory, upgrading the heating system and replacing the roof’s cedar shingles. The YCHS undertook a similar re-roofing project in 2006 for the Old Log Church. Work completed by the YCHS has followed the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada and will ensure that the historic value and architectural integrity of the buildings are preserved. This award is sponsored by the Department of Tourism and Culture, Government of Yukon.

Award descriptions can be found here.