37th Annual Heritage Award Winners Announced

The Yukon Historical & Museums Association (YHMA) today announced the winners of the 37th annual Yukon Heritage Awards. Yukoners are invited to attend the virtual Awards ceremony on Monday, March 29, 2021 at 7 pm via Zoom meeting. Advance registration is required; registration can be found here. The meeting will be opened at 6:45 pm for participants to join. After the awards have been presented, attendees will have the opportunity to take part in a fun, heritage-themed social activity in lieu of in-person mingling.

“Although this year is a little different, we are pleased to once again recognize the contributions of some remarkable people and organizations. These award recipients have enriched our community immensely through their work to preserve and share Yukon heritage in a variety of ways, and we hope the community will join us in honouring them,” says YHMA Executive Director Lianne Maitland.

YHMA will be presenting five awards for 2020. Instead of granting an Annual Heritage Award, we are pleased to honour two deserving individuals with a History Maker Award. Also being presented are the Helen Couch Volunteer of the Year Award; Innovation, Education, and Community Engagement Award; and Heritage Conservation Project of the Year Award.

A History Maker Award will be presented to Valerie (Val) Graham. Val was an active, committed, and influential contributor in the Yukon heritage community for many years from the 1970s through the 1990s, a period of dynamic development. Val was at the forefront of this development, quietly and steadily working first as a volunteer and later as YHMA Executive Director to envision much needed changes, shaping and implementing activities to support the preservation and celebration of Yukon heritage. Serving as a board member of MacBride Museum, Val saw first-hand the many needs confronting Yukon museums. This led her to play a key role in the formation of the Yukon Historical and Museums Association (YHMA) and to join its first board. During her time with YHMA, she managed the successful restoration of the Donnenworth, Smith, and Captain Martin Houses; applied her superb accounting skills to the YHMA budget; helped to organize multiple conferences in various Yukon communities; produced the hugely popular annual Heritage Teas in LePage park; and much more. Her unique ability to build bridges across generations meant that YHMA events included Elders, long time seniors, and younger newcomers to the territory. Val’s dedication supported crucial transitions from the primarily volunteer heritage community of earlier years, when there were very few federal or territorial government heritage programs, to the robust and expanded community and programs that exist today. She now lives in British Columbia.

A posthumous History Maker Award will be presented to David Neufeld. David came to the Yukon as the Yukon and Western Arctic Historian with Parks Canada in January 1986, a position that included protected area planning, commemorations, historical research and writing, and partnership projects with Yukon First Nations. David’s particular interests were in environmental history and the intersection of knowledge and practice in Indigenous and settler ways of life. He was instrumental in the designation of several Indigenous national historic sites in the Yukon. After retiring from Parks Canada in 2012, David formed a consulting business and, with continued enthusiasm, followed his interests in archival research and community oral histories. In 2019, he was chosen as the Yukon representative to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. David was also a talented and inspired teacher, known for his patience and good humour. He taught northern history and protected area management at Yukon College, and acted as a cultural interpretation guide for hiking and canoe groups in southern Yukon. In 2004, David was a member of a team awarded the National Council of Public History’s Robert Kelly Memorial Award, which honours significant achievements in making history relevant to people outside of academia. David’s enthusiasm for Yukon heritage inspired many, and his passing was a great loss for our community.

Carolyn Harris will receive the Helen Couch Volunteer of the Year Award. As an ongoing, active Director of the Yukon Council of Archives (YCA), Carolyn cultivates a strong and supported Yukon archives and record management community. She has served terms as both Vice President and President and continues to participate in several YCA committees, assisting in the successful Community Archivist Project and Professional Development and Education Committee activities. As President of YCA, Carolyn led the highly acclaimed Yukon Summit on Archives in 2018, which gathered representatives from First Nations and other heritage organizations throughout the Yukon to discuss issues, develop future goals, and launch initiatives for preserving and making available Yukon’s diverse and dispersed documentary heritage. She also helped to organize a First Nations Records Management conference in the Yukon, in association with ARMA Vancouver. Carolyn’s commitment to recorded information management as Records Manager for Kwanlin Dün First Nation ensures that vital records will be available for all present and future generations. She generously shares her knowledge and experience on archives and records management issues as part of a collaborative project with the Teslin Tlingit Council to assist other First Nations with their programs. Her steady, welcoming, and kind leadership has encouraged many newcomers to join the YCA and to serve on its board and committees. 

This year’s Innovation, Education, and Community Engagement Award will be presented to Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) and KDFN Elders for Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur: Our Stories in Our Words. This publication is a superb addition to the literature available to citizens, schools, and the public on the history, language, and culture of KDFN. It provides an essential foundation of knowledge for KDFN’s ongoing self-determination, 15 years after the First Nation’s final and self-government agreements came into effect. The content was formed by KDFN Citizens under the guidance of Elders and is organized in a seasonal round, beginning with a long-ago springtime when the world began, moving through a full year cycle, and ending in the late summer of today where KDFN continues to realize the vision of its agreements. The book is a treasure trove of Elders’ stories told in their languages, sharing their worldviews and personal reflections on the land, the resources that help them survive, and the values they cherish to make a good life for their families now and for all generations to come. Their accounts of events before, during, and after the arrival of newcomers, along with the tremendous efforts made to reclaim their lands and lives through the negotiation of KDFN’s agreements, are truly inspiring. KDFN has provided a free copy of the publication to every citizen over the age of 16, ensuring that the wisdom, courage, and resiliency of their ancestors are shared throughout the community. The book can also be purchased though local booksellers and the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

This year's Heritage Conservation Project of the Year Award will be presented to Derek Crowe and Jane Keopke for the conservation of the Blacksmith Shop in Carcross, Yukon. While the history of this unassuming building is not fully known, its design and materials give an idea of its role within the development of the community and its connection to the history of the region. Built with full dimension rough sawn joists, the wide rough sawn plank subfloor and blackened interior provide clues to the buildings age and use. Retired RCMP member Bill Pringle acquired the Blacksmith Shop during the 1960s. The Pringles used the Blacksmith Shop as a residence while they constructed their new home on an adjacent lot. For years afterwards, the Blacksmith Shop was used for storage, and a meat-hanging shed and greenhouse were added to the structure. Bill called the building the Conrad Blacksmith Shop, as he believed it had been transported to Carcross over the ice from Conrad. However, it may also have served as the White Pass and Yukon Route blacksmith shop in Carcross. Since the building was partially constructed with lumber from other buildings, it is also possible that the Blacksmith Shop was built in Carcross from whatever materials were readily at hand. Derek Crowe and Jane Keopke recently acquired the Blacksmith Shop and undertook a project to rehabilitate the building for use as a part-time residence. Derek and Jane followed the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, while completing structural upgrades such as a new foundation and reinforcement of gable end walls, the removal of non-historic additions and roof replacement. This project will help ensure the longevity of the building by giving it a new use and appreciation within the community of Carcross.

Award descriptions can be found at here.