Dawson City, Yukon Friday, August 1, 2003

The Dawson City Music Festival dominated the middle of July. Events take place all over town. Here a large crowd gathers for a performance at the Front Street Gazebo. Photo by Anne Tyrrell

Feature Stories

Music Fest Celebrates 25 Years in Style
Learn to Play the Musical Saw
Dawson Reopens No-Smoking Bylaw for Discussion
Dawson to Eagle and Back on the Yukon Queen
An Energetic Follies Meets Tourists at the Palace Grand
Hammerstones Presents an Overview of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in
George Fetherling: A Very Good Life But Not Much of a Living
I Had Dinner with the Attaché from England
Dawson Literary Lions #1: Jack London's Klondike Gold
Double Celebration
Song of Shär Cho
Watercolours Of Mexico
Yael Brotman's "Shards"

Welcome to the August 1, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the photographs and articles that were in the July 29 hard copy edition. We're catching up on July postings now that the editor is back from his vacation.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, and obviously, all the other material you won't find here.

We encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun. It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. The only thing you would not get is the colour photo at the beginning of the on-line issues. We can't afford to print in colour.

Since we went online in March 1996 our counter has crashed a number of times. The first counter logged about 25,000 visitors. The second one, which crashed recently, logged about 51,000. The current counter went online in April of this spring and was sitting at 7,990 on August 9, 2003.

Anybody Got a Loonie?

If every person who logged onto this website would send us a loonie, we'd be able to pay off the lease on our new laser printer in just a few issues. Seriously folks, since the beginning of this year there are more of you reading this digest edition of the Sun than there are reading the real thing on paper. A second online reader has made a contribution to our printer fund. More on that in a few weeks.

Music Fest Celebrates 25 Years in Style

by Anne Tyrrell

Dominic Lloyd must have a connection with the big guy upstairs because he couldn't have ordered better weather for the music festival's 25th year.

On Friday evening the music started with a small calm crowd present. It was a warm night but people seemed to want to kick up their heels. The Wailin Jenny's had the honour of being the first band of the night as they got the weekend off to a harmonious start with their sweet rhythms.

With a taste of country folk music JT King came on making the ever growing crowd tap their toes. JT King had performed here in 1996 as Big Yellow Taxi and was very happy to be back.

Ben Mahoney followed with some hard hitting rock that just made your feet itch if you didn't dance. By the end of their set they had the people in the tent up and singing along to "Play that Funky Music White Boy."

Next on were Blackie & the Rodeo Kings with their snappy matching shirts they played hard country. There were two stepping couples dancing to the rhythms. After attempting not to physically assault anyone with my dance moves I took back to my bench where I decided it would be safest if I took pictures. Knowing that Saturday would be a long day I headed home to meditate on my pillow.

After several cups of coffee, the next morning, I was upwardly mobile. A quick stop at Riverwest and it was back on my trusty sandled feet to Minto Park for Kid's Fest. As I entered the tent I found that the average age in the tent had drastically dropped from the night before. Toddlers to 15 year olds were sitting mesmerized by the Robert Minden Duo.

Robert Minden was telling the story of the lost sound and was playing music on an instrument he wasn't even touching. It was interesting for more than just the kids. Carla Hallett was accompanying on what looked like large water glasses.

As Michael Brooks was about to start, I was accosted by my friend Jack Amos who was going to have a hot dog and needed my help. Not being one to argue with a two year old, I obeyed.

Next stop was the Palace Grand where local songstress Marieke Hiensch was performing. This was Hiensch's first appearance at the music festival and hopefully not the last. Many of her songs reflected her travels including a song about meeting a little boy in India who let her borrow his kite. Her guitar playing and lyrics moved the crowd to cheer and brought a gift of flowers after the performance.

Then I was off to the gazebo to catch the last thirty minutes of the Afro Celt Sound system workshop. A huge crowd had come to hear some good jigs and reels and weren't disappointed. The African beat blended seamlessly with the wild Celtic sounds. Even in the 36 degree heat the extremely large crowd danced in front of the gazebo.

Thanks to Susan Clifford who submitted an article on the Learn How to Play the Musical Saw workshop, the Klondike Sun could be in more than one place at a time.

Then finally home to reapply sunscreen and fill up the water bottle to get ready for the evening of dancing in the main tent.

Locally raised boys Wauntid opened Saturday night's main stage event with hard hitting, music that turned the dance floor into a mosh pit.

Around 8:00 pm I decided that I should check out the concert going on at St. Paul's. Even though the directions were wrong in the program (we all make mistakes) approximately 300 people were crammed into the church. Listening from outside, Kim Beggs sounded incredible. With my glimpse in and what I could hear from the steps, Beggs is a woman we will be hearing more from. I only hope I am in the same room next time.

With a stop to fill up the water bottle, I returned to the main tent where I was fortunate to catch Old Reliable. This Edmonton band blasted out music for the blue collar worker. The lyrics resonated with the locals.

Next on stage was Dave Haddock and his band was accompanied on stage by two dancers who moved to the soulful tunes. Haddock sang with such intensity that it sent shivers down my spine.

The every growing crowd was honoured with another appearance from JT King who had performed on the main stage on Friday night. This second appearance gave people who hadn't heard her another opportunity to take in her dulcet tones.

For a change of pace Clavé came on with their swing style music. It was evident that Dawson was ready for the blasting horns and the swinging rhythms. The music blasting from the main tent brought in the people who were making their way over from the Odd Fellows hall and St. Paul's concerts.

It was evident by this time that I once again wouldn't make it to the end of the night without collapsing. I decided that I would head home to get money to buy the cds for the last two bands. I arrived back just to hear a bit of Boy but I don't think it would be fair to report on it since all I heard was a snippet.

After indulging just a little too much the festival, audience seemed especially quiet Sunday morning. In the afternoon I headed out to the Speak Up or Sing Out workshop.

Chris McNutt, Gordie Tentress, Alexis O'Hara, Nicky Mehta, Robert Minden, and Ben Mahony each took turns either doing humorous spoken words or songs. Gordie Tentress played a song inspired by characters in Dawson City in the winter when he came up to play at the Westminster.

Alexis O'Hara used a loop station, a machine designed to teach guitar to beginners, to record her voice, then she plays back and speaks over it. Afterwards Chris McNutt and O'Hara experimented doing an ode to hot dogs making the audience erupt into fits of laughter.

Sunday evening's festivities started at 7:30 pm at the main stage. Most of the evening was spent outside the tent catching up with friends and listening to the bands.

Local bar band Gord or as quoted in the program, "the quintessential Wednesday night Pit Band, (there you go boys not Rolling Stone but it is something) started the evening with a nod from MC Chris "McNott". Dominic Lloyd and Fred Squire, showing their ever present coolness, were asked on stage to accompany the band for two songs. The guys expertly belted out the hits ringing in the last night.

Not to be out done, Kate Hammet-Vaughan, showed her passion for jazz. Even for a person who is not a fan of jazz, Hammet-Vaughan was an extraordinary singer who could belt out the tunes.

Gordie Tentress and the Groove Maniacs brought the crowd that had been outside the tent inside to listen. I would elaborate but I took this opportunity to visit the fine facilities available and visit with some of the people up for music festival.

Old Reliable, who had been on the main stage on Saturday night, returned to rock the main tent. Aboubacar Camara and Doundounba had the memorable position of being the last set of this year's music festival. Their infectious beat and impressive dance moves truly did bring Dawsonites, both at the tent and around town, to their feet.

After a weekend of hot sun, fun, and music the 25th Dawson City Music Festival wrapped early Monday morning with Aboubacar Camara and Doundounba being joined on stage by the many other musicians. Festival goers danced and jigged to the early hours of the morning and could be heard all over town yelling, "That was so awesome."

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Learn to Play the Musical Saw

by Susan Clifford

If you were not amongst the thirty one people attending Robert Minden's workshop in St. Pau's on Saturday afternoon then you missed a real treat. In a professional manner and with gentle humour, Mr. Minden guided us skillfully through the history, and the technical and practical requirements of playing a musical saw.

Originally popular in the Vaudevillian era, this musical genre is in a period of renaissance, and understandably so. It is novel, affordable, easy to begin, and fun.

"Get yourselves a Stanley Handyman 28" saw. The cheaper, longer ones are more flexible and thus better because they 'wibble more' (a musical saw technical term for wiggling and wobbling at the same time)," advises Mr. Minden, "and they can provide up to two octaves of notes."

Next, mallets were produced made for pencils and pens with knobs of masking tape on the end, and we were shown how to 'safely' grip the handle of the saw between the thighs (trousers are recommended!). Then, taking turns with seven saws, we practiced making 'music'.

Think of the sound track on old science fiction or horror films, the spooky, eerily beautiful twilight zone sounds and you'll have some idea of what a musical saw novice is able to achieve. Double bend the saw, strike the "sweet spot' on the curve with the mallet, nervously jiggle a leg to create "vibrato' and presto you are playing.

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do" sprang merrily from Mr. Minden's saw as he went on to demonstrate the effect of sliding a well rosined bow along the "smooth" edge of the saw. For the adventurous players, home made bows of rosined string or even fishing line will suffice.

If you thought those old, dull saws in the tool shed could no longer serve a useful purpose, think again. Clean off the rust, develop this new skill and liven up your next party.

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Dawson Reopens No-Smoking Bylaw for Discussion

by Dan Davidson

If restaurant owners hoped for a big public debate on Dawson's No Smoking Bylaw at the June 26 council meeting, they were in for a big disappointment. Certainly the item was on the agenda for the evening, and the operators of the Westminster, Midnight Sun, Bombay Peggy's, Klondike Kate's and Riverwest trickled in during the first half hour of the meeting and took their places to await their opportunity.

In one sense, it was a false alarm. Council brought forth the bylaw and opened it for public discussion. There were, as yet, no proposed changes. It's on the public agenda now, said Mayor Glen Everitt,, simply because council had promised that it would be when it was enacted just about a year ago and came into force on Canada Day, 2002.

It was a stormy passage last year. The bill only scraped by due to a provision of the voting regulations which interprets an abstention as a vote in favour. The count was 2 in favour, 2 against and 1 abstention.

At the time the bylaw, which basically bans smoking in indoor restaurants which might be frequented by persons under the age of 18, but allows it in bars and on outdoor patios, was one of the toughest in the country. Restaurants which were exclusively indoor operations could allow smoking only if they were prepared to ban minors from their premises.

The main provisions read as follows:

The penalties under the bylaw apply to both the person or the business charged with breaking it. Persons begin with a $150 fine and progress to $500 for the fifth and subsequent offences.

Businesses face the same fines, plus a 14 day business licence suspension on the second offence, followed by a 30 day suspension for the third and subsequent offences.

During the next month the entire bylaw will be published in the local paper and the council is looking for comments.

"There have been some concerns expressed to the city about the current bylaw," Everitt said. "Some of the concerns are that an unfair practice has been set up for the advantage of some businesses; some concerns are from people who feel that the bylaw doesn't go far enough; some people feel that the bylaw should be deemed as an experiment and ... be completely revoked."

The review is not just for residents of rate payers, though their opinions are being sought as well.

"It's for business people to have the opportunity to provide the city with feedback about what it's been like, comments they've heard, concerns that they may have with it."

So far council has received two written submissions from businesses. One was unidentified, but the second came from Wade LaMarche, of Klondike Kate's.

"So for everybody who came down," Everitt said somewhat apologetically to the unusually full chamber, "it was not the intent to go into debate on the bylaw this evening. We do plan to consult with the Chamber of Commerce, but also businesses that are not part of the chamber. There will be an avenue to provide input that is anonymous."

Everitt said that comments will be brought to the council without having names attached to them if people request that. "Some people don't want to be chastised for their opinions," he said. Some people don't feel comfortable with having their name on something that's a public document, the mayor said.

Council would like to have the public consultation process completed by the end of July. It could result in changes to the bylaw, but it might not. There is certainly no guarantee that a month's consultation here will make the bylaw go away.

This bylaw was in the forefront of smoking legislation when it was passed last year, but since then similar or tougher bylaws have been enacted all across the country. In Ontario, the chief medical officer for the northern part of the province got tired of waiting for municipalities to act, and declared an outright ban in all food service businesses, including bars in his regulations.

In Whitehorse the council is currently debating a bylaw which might be as tough or tougher than the one currently in force here.

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Dawson to Eagle and Back on the Yukon Queen

by Dan Davidson


The Yukon Queen II waits for passengers at the Eagle landing. Photo by Dan Davidson

The day I pick to take the trip to Eagle and back on the Yukon Queen II happens to be soggy and chilly, one of the few such days in the first six weeks of Dawson's summer. This does not distract from the fact that the trip is interesting and informative, but it does limit somewhat the opportunities to view the magnificent scenery along the Yukon River.

As it happens, riding in the Yukon Queen is much like a scaled down version of the trip I will take on the PEI to Nova Scotia ferry about two weeks later. There are no vehicles on the Queen, but the basic layout for this sort of boat is much the same on any coast. It is a people mover and it does that efficiently, using its space economically.

What, you might ask, am I doing here, and why have I decided to personalize this report? I have to say that this trip was not my idea, even if it was a good one. It came about as a result of my attending and reporting on the public meeting held by the Yukon Queen II Working Group a week earlier. The working group has been set up to establish what, if any, damage the high-powered Holland America craft's wake might be doing to fish stock and the river banks between its two ports of call during the three months it plies these waters daily each summer.

As I perceive it after attending two of these public report sessions, the working group has the nigh

impossible task of reconciling some extremely divergent opinions. On the one hand there is HollandAmerica, which maintains that the Queen does everything it can to minimize environmental damage. On the other there are river residents and fisherman (men and women) who feel exactly the opposite. For them the solution is a slower, smaller boat, perhaps even two of them.

There are economic arguments as well. The official line of the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce is that the Yukon Queen II is important to the overall tourism economy during the summer months and that a way to keep it running should be found. The countering economic argument comes from the river residents and fishermen, who maintain that the boat's wake is eroding the river bank and that immature salmon and other fish are being stranded on shore or injured by the boat's wake. There is some observational science to support this latter view, though the subject is still under study.

The working group asked me to take the trip to see what I might observe, although some members immediately remarked that I would, of course, see nothing out of the way because the company would know I was there. The company issued a complimentary pass and, when my wife and I went to purchase her a ticket so that we might make a day of it together, included her in the fare. As a reporter that leaves me wide open to suggestions of having been compromised, which is why I have spent this much space on background and disclosure here, and why this might as well be a first person essay.

The trip is fine. I recommend it, though it is pricey at CDN$130 going to Eagle and US$87 returning (there are no round trip fares). Pick a sunny day if you can. The Queen does accept walk-on traffic on days when their reserved business is low. One reason you want a nice day is that you can't see a lot from the passenger lounge on a nasty one once the Queen hits its stride. This boat rises out of the water at its higher speeds and casts a spray across the cabin windows which obliterates most of the view. You need to go up to the smaller open deck to see much, and that's not a lot of fun on a day when the seat cushions are damp and the rain is blowing in.

Captain Al Bruce and the crew also allow passengers onto the bridge, where a vast array of navigational instruments helps him keep track of the meandering river channel. An earlier tour vessel, the M.V. Klondike (operated by a different company), steered with a joystick, but the captain prefers a wheel, which is in pretty constant motion during the trip.

The Queen slows down at several places along the river to point out the homes of river residents. One of these, Cor Guimond, has protested being made a part of the tour, and has his place up for sale now. Another is a wood carver whose portfolio is actually on display in a binder on the boat.

The Queen also slows for other reasons. On this day it slows for fish nets when they are marked so they can be seen. It slows for other traffic, mostly canoes and kayaks, and not many of those. It slows for three fish wheels (two of which are Dept. of Fisheries operations) as well as in the narrower parts of the river, or where the channel forces it close to one or the other of the banks.

The wake is hard to judge. This is a jet boat and once it gets up to speed the plume out the stern is tremendous, metres high, but it seems to dampen quite quickly and is more like tidal wave action before it approaches the shores. Some locals say it is washing the shore away, as the tide does on PEI and in shore communities around Nova Scotia. Holland America spokesman Gideon Garcia has firmly stated that this wake could hardly be compared to the damage caused annually during break-up by nature itself, or by the rising and falling of the river levels through the month of June. Two studies are under way. One is observational and the other is looking at how wakes affect other places where they are common.

What one can say, just looking, is that there is a wake, and that the waves persist for several hundred metres once the boat has passed by. In fairness to the Queen, nearly every power boat that leaves the dock in Dawson City kicks up a wake, many strong enough to rock the floating boardwalk, and the Holland America craft always seems to glide in without much disturbance on the half dozen occasions that I've seen it arrive.

The questions surrounding the impact of the Yukon Queen II on the environment and the economy of the Dawson area will not be resolved quickly. The boat falls under the regulations of two nations and the issues are complicated.

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An Energetic Follies Meets Tourists at the Palace Grand

by Dan Davidson


Derek Metz signs autographs after an evening at the Gaslight Follies. Metz is in his second year with the show. Photo by Dan Davidson

The Palace Grand Prize is the title of this year's instalment of the Gaslight Follies at the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson City. Since this will be the last year for the Follies in just this format, it might be worth a trip to the theatre to see what we'll be losing.

The show is run by Garter Girl Productions, headed by Bronwyn and Alyx Jones. Bronwyn, as producer and cast member, is in Dawson for the summer, and when she isn't acting in two of the roles in the play, she finds she is often busy handling one of the many little crises that can arise when schedules are tight.

The show is similar to last year's, though it is about 10 minutes longer. Some of the routines have changed, there are two new songs (created by Paul Foster), and a bit more emphasis on the history of the area. Bronwyn says this reflects the desire she heard to give the tourists a bit more background.

This year's show begins in the past, with a kind of commissioning of the evening by the ghost of Arizona Charlie Meadows, who is leaving after his few years in the north. He is followed by a modern day tour group, a kind of spoof on exactly the sort of thing that many of the audience might have done or will be doing during their stay in town. As that segment closes, one of the "tourists" discovers an old trunk, and finds within it the vestments that Meadow's ghost had discarded. Donning them triggers a kind of time slip, and we suddenly find ourselves falling back to the Dawson of yore, caught up in the excitement of a sternwheeler's arrival.

Aboard the boat are the cast, now transformed into characters loosely based on actual stampeders. The most easily discernible is "Klondike Kate" Rockwell. Others have names that don't lead to such easy identification. Willie "the Rooster" D'amingo thinks highly of his skills as a ladies man and a boxer. Sammy "the Fried Potato Kid" is a hard worker who likes a challenge. Henrietta Harbinger likes to think she has the goods on what the future holds. Two hard-luck miners, Jack and Jacque, have arrived too late to stake any worthwhile claim, and must scrabble to make ends meet for themselves.

As in any decent melodrama sub-plots abound. Sammy (loosely based on Alexander Pantages) has a yen for Kitty, who actually gives us a truncated version of her famous ribbon dance. Henrietta likes Willie (based on Jack Kearns, who would later manage the boxer Jack Dempsey), but it takes a while to get him to notice her. The miners move from mining to clowning in the theatre, assisting in the persecution of the audience during the evening. Willie and Sammy strike sparks over Kate and other things and end up, much to Arizona Charlie's delight, staging a boxing match in the Palace Grand, after which things seem to sort themselves out.

For a local who has seen many variations of these themes over the last 17 years, there's not a lot that's new here, but keeping one eye on the audience reaction is instructive. Visitors like the show in a way that locals really can't. Sure it's a bit corny and the plots are thin as well worn bluejeans, but it's all in fun, and the visitors seem to take it that way.

Bronwyn says that putting the show together in just seventeen days at the beginning of the season is tight, and one outcome is that it tends to evolve a little as the season progresses. The other change agent is that fact that each cast member plays two roles or different nights in order to allow each one a night off. The change in the mix can lead to changes in delivery and energy. She had one visitor who had seen the show twice in a week come to tell her that it was really two different shows. She hadn't thought there was that much of a change, but she could see why he said it.

The constant rotation of the cast also makes it hard for a reviewer to predict exactly what the audience will see. On the Wednesday night that led to this review Bronwyn was the Young Woman in the tour group who ends up channeling Arizona Charlie Meadows during the time slip. Andrew Rhodes was Willie; Chad Hershler was Sammy, Erin Mathews was Henrietta, Damon Calderwood was Jacques, Derek Metz was Jack, Sarah Susut was Kate, and local boy Pascal Causer-McBurney was the Newspaper Kid. There are three possible pianists for the show and the one on that night was a later addition to the cast who is not listed in the program.

The Follies is a show which is structured to please visitors rather than locals. It provides a simplified outline of Gold rush history, a caricature of life in the Klondike in those days, a bit of romance, a bit of action, and some music, both lively and melancholy. Locals should not expect anything startlingly new, but you can have a good time if you get into the spirit of the evening,, which is essentially positive. Visitors to town should simply enjoy themselves.

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Hammerstones Presents an Overview of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in

by Dan Davidson


Helen Dobrolowsky is finding some time to work on Captain Martin's journals now that her history of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch'in is done. Photo by Dan Davidson

It's been 8 years in the making, but the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in now have a written history. Helen Dobrowolsky's latest project was released to the public on Aboriginal Day, June 21, at the Dänòja Zho Cultural Centre in Dawson City.

According to Dobrowolsky, the book actually began as an attempt to focus attention on the site variously known as Tr'ochëk, Lousetown and Klondike City, the community which was once located just across the mouth of the Klondike River from Dawson itself. In the late 1980's and early 90's there was still a dispute over the importance of that area,and some of it was still under the blade of a contentious placer mining operation. Like many of the one-time communities in the Klondike, there was little left of the place. Both the Han structures of the pre-goldrush period and the industrial activities of the post-goldrush years were largely gone.

"There had been mining claims on the site for about fifteen years. These had gradually been taken over by a large outside company. There had been some placer mining on the site the winter before and some important heritage structures and features were destroyed in the process.

"There was a lot of local concern about preserving the site that was a very key first nations site and also part of the Klondike history."

Dobrowolsky was hired by the Yukon Historical and Museums Society to do the work. Parks Canada historian David Neufeld was her volunteer project manager, and she acknowledges a lot of help from the Dawson City Museum, YTG's Heritage Resources Unit and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in.

"They were very generous about giving me access to their resources .... previous studies of the site. I was building on other peoples' work."

There was a lot of material, including newspaper archives and other documents,, but no one person had pulled it altogether before. The result was a detailed study of the Tr'ochëk site, finished in 1996, which became an unpublished document in limited circulation for the use of other researchers.

Dobrowolsky says that it was Neufeld's suggestion to wait before putting it into final form as a book. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in were in the final phase of their Land Claim during the 1990's and it was his opinion that it would be good to have that chapter of their history closed before doing anything else.

She tinkered with the manuscript over the next year, and incorporated some new material which had turned up and then left it.

When the Land Claim was signed off in 1997, Tr'ochëk was part of it, became a protected area under the agreement, along with a commitment by the senior levels of government to help the first nation study and interpret the site. This was to be managed by the Tr'ochëk Steering Committee.

Now it came time to return to the book, but the focus had shifted. It was less about Tr'ochëk specifically and more about the entire Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in experience in the area, which included Dawson City and Moosehide.

The first nation's oral history project. Life on the River, coordinated by Georgette McLeod, became an important part of the revised book.

"What really makes this a special book is having access to all this community material. I really think of this as a community history, that the community has supported and contributed to."

Rewriting began in 1999/2000, and a first draft made the rounds of the stakeholders in the project, which led to a second draft.

"For this latest phase we went into high gear late last fall."

There had been so many changes during the previous five years that chapter 12, "Envisioning the Future", had to be completely rewritten.

"The Land Claim had been settled; self-government was well under way; the cultural centre had come up."

Both the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the Tr'ochëk committee wanted to aim for a late spring release. AT that point Patricia Halliday was hired to do the final edit and the design for the book, which incorporates a lot of photographs, pull-quotes and sidebars alongside the main text.

Even with the amount of the time that has been put into this book, it was still not certain that it would be ready in time for the launching. Chief Darren Taylor was ill and his message got done a little late. The Canadian cataloguing information came in the day the book was going to press. Then there was some uncertainty as to whether the copies would make it to Dawson in time for the launching.

"It was wonderful to be here to launch it on Aboriginal Day," Dobrowolsky said. ‘But I think it's wonderful; that this is coming out at this particular time in the history of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, when there are so many positive things happening."

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George Fetherling: A Very Good Life But Not Much of a Living

by Dan Davidson


George Fetherling strikes a pose on the viewing platform in front of Berton House. Photo by Dan Davidson

George Fetherling got interested in gold rushes when he noticed how pervasive they were.

"They sprang up all over the world over a period of 75 years on a number of different continents," he said during a July interview at Berton House. "I was interested in how they differed because of the cultural and geographical differences in those places, but also how they seemed to be all part of a large, slightly discontinuous, event."

The result of this interest was The Gold Crusades, a fascinating survey of all the major 19th century gold rushes, from California to the Caribou, South Africa to Australia, culminating in the last and biggest of the series, the Klondike Gold Rush.

More recently he got interested in how the identical act of assassination was viewed in so many different ways in so many different places. The act itself maybe the same, but the motivations and the level of social acceptance are not at all the same, depending on where you are.

"I was reading about assassins in Japan in the nationalist period in the 1930's. They were almost public heroes. They were interviewed on radio and attended banquets and things. They were viewed as patriots.

"This was very, very different from the view of assassins in, let's say, the United States, where they're lone crazies, or in Europe, where they tend to be motivated by narrow ideology ... connected to partisanism."

That led to the writing of a book to tie in all together.

Fetherling hastens to add, however, that historical surveys are not his usual forte.

"I'm a poet and a fiction writer, a writer of travel narratives."

There is, of course, his biography of the late George Woodcock, The Gentle Anarchist, but Fetherling explains that one easily.

"He was a friend for twenty-five years or so. I was very fond of him and his ideas. He was a remarkable man, a remarkable Canadian and a remarkable British Columbian. I had the good fortune to be the writer in residence at Queen's University for a year, and Queen's houses his archives. It was too good a coincidence not to take advantage of, to spend a year working with his papers."

Seizing opportunities seems to be something Fetherling is good at. He became a reporter ("the world's worst", he adds) at the age of 16 in spite of the fact that he hated to do interviews, suffered from a speech impediment, "was not good on the telephone" until the age of 35, and "didn't have fanatical interest in the facts." A move to something other than daily reporting seemed in order, and he made the transition to magazine writing and editing, most notably at Saturday Night magazine, where his nineteen years on staff coincided with the editorial tenure of Robert Fulford.

One of his current projects is the editing of a retrospective anthology of pieces from that magazine, so he has had to read the entire run of 125 years in order to decide what to select. This has led him to the unhappy conclusion that, whatever else may have been in those pages - and much of it was good — there has been a continuing issue which threads though those pages (developed by a number of writers and editors) showing a fear of outsiders and foreigners.

The project Fetherling is at Berton House to pursue is a short novel.

"I'm determined to write 10 pages a day for the next 30 days," he said in early July. On this day we have sandwiched an interview in at the end of page eight. This level of production consumes as much time as it takes, but six to eight hours would be normal.

Fetherling writes his first drafts in longhand in hard covered exercise books, using a fountain pen. He gets about 200 words on a page, so his goal will be the same as that of Jack London, who used to write 2,000 words a day. Keyboarding is for the second draft.

Other projects on the go include a novel with a B.C. setting which is due out from Random House in 2004 and a book length poem, an elegy for his father, whose name he adopted as his first name, changing from Douglas to his middle name, George, when he reached the age at which his father died.

"I support these various activities through a book review column, called Book Essay ... which I've done since the 1970's." It's followed him through a series of papers in his journey across the nation from Ontario to British Columbia.

He's managed to turn out fifty books in nearly every type of writing over the last 36 years, fulfilling the unresolved ambitions of his grandfather, who tried to be a writer. The urge (or perhaps just the opportunity) seems to have skipped a generation before settling on George, as well as on a much older brother he has only recently gotten to know who became an author after a career in newspapers.

For George it was a case of having to support himself and others that led to him trying the newspaper game. He had long been interested in books, but was unable to go to university and only received an honorary doctorate from the Jesuits at Saint Mary's a few years ago.

"I've always said," he observed, "that this is in my view a very good life, though it's not much of a living."

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I Had Dinner with the Attaché from England

by Anne Tyrrell


Commander Rick Boyd thanks Ranger Sergeant John Mitchell. Photo by Anne Tyrrell

There are perks to being a small town, unassuming reporter for the Klondike Sun. One is that you get to do things like have a wild meat BBQ with the members of the military attaché core. My guest, Shelley, and I had only been there for about three minutes when we were approached by one of the attachés, who was actually stationed in Yellowknife. As we got to talking I mentioned that I was the student reporter for the paper and was ushered over to meet the guy in charge.

According to the Canadian Forces attachés web site, military attachés promote understanding and harmony around the world. They are the official representatives for the armed forces of their countries as well as, advising their ambassadors on defence matters that might have a bearing on relations with the countries to which they are accredited.

Colonel Richard Boyd, who works as the Dean Attache of Ottawa Service, was very personable and approachable. He mentioned that the idea behind this visit was to show Northern Canada - the people, cultures, and military aspects like the Rangers. At each stop they visit political leaders both city and provincial and take in differences from place to place.

The attachés landed at Dawson City airport earlier that day in a large Hercules air plane. They were arriving from Whitehorse having visited there. The tour has consisted of stops in Churchill, Manitoba; Whitehorse; Cambridge Bay; Diavik, Nunavut; and Lac DeGraw. In Churchill they were able to see two polar bears which was one of the highlights mentioned.

Just before dinner was served there was a well received visit from Diamond Tooth Gertie and her girls all the visitors were given the opportunity for a photo and given a Dawson City garter to wear around their arm. Not to be upstaged the RCMP horse and rider made an appearance and posed for some photos.

The savory wild meat meal consisted of bannock, white fish, salmon, moose, shish kebabs, pasta salad, Caesar salad, and baked potatoes with fruit tarts for dessert. In line for the food I ended up talking to the attaché from England. As I sat down with some of the locals, I found that I ended up chatting with more of the attachés one of which was from Norway and a visitor from Montreal.

All full from dinner, Colonel Rick Boyd presented a small plaque to Mitch and the Rangers, to thank them for all the work they had done. Then most of the diners headed down to Diamond Tooth Gerties to take in some gambling and visit Bombay Peggy's for a drink.

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Dawson Literary Lions #1: Jack London's Klondike Gold

by Dan Davidson


Northern journalist and historian Dick North uses the items in his collection of Jack London memorabilia to reveal London's short Klondike experience and odyssey which would influence the rest of his life. Photo by Dan Davidson

Among the tens of thousands of eager stampeders who headed for the Klondike in 1896 there was a slightly built young man who had dreams of escaping a life which had so far included grinding factory work and oyster piracy in the San Francisco bay area. Largely self-educated, Jack London had a love of books and a desire to write, but hadn't had a lot of success as a wordsmith yet. Perhaps he thought that finding gold in the Yukon would allow him the financial freedom to pursue his craft. Perhaps he was just caught up in the general gold fever that recurred at various times all through the 19th century and climaxed in the 96-98 rush.

Whatever the case, young London made it to the north, unlike most of the 100,000 or so who started out, and spent a winter in a cabin on Henderson Creek before heading into Dawson City to get medical attention for what may have been scurvy or the first signs of Lupins, the disease that hasten the end of his days later on.

Did Jack know then that he had found his motherlode? Did he realize, even as he listened to the winter tales of the other would-be miners, and met a certain dog near the hospital in Dawson, that he would become the first name American author of the 20th century on the basis of two novels about northern dogs and a couple of collections of northern tales, that he would become a millionaire, be able to afford to indulge his wildest dreams, and become known the world over?

Probably not. Most likely Jack left the Klondike feeling that he had failed, and only later discovered that his writer's itch had at last found something to scratch.

Jump ahead six decades to the 1960's and we find another man following a dream. American reporter Dick North had been inspired by London all his life, and had ended up in Alaska and the Yukon following that inspiration. In Dawson he heard stories of an abandoned cabin on Henderson Creek known to the Burian family and others. It took him a while to mount an expedition up the creek, led by Joe Henry and accompanied by 1940's and 50's song and dance man Eddie Albert (better known then for his starring role in the t.v. show "Green Acres").

Imagine North's satisfaction when he found the wall where London's signature had been scrawled and learned that a slab of wood matching the missing hunk of log still existed with the signature on it. It took time to verify it (a story too long and complicated to tell here), but that find led to the establishment of two Jack London memorials, one in Dawson City and one in Oakland, California, each made from some of the logs of the original.

For years the Dawson cabin was just that, a cabin and an elevated storage cache. Visitors could use their own imaginations. Not Dick North though. He continued to collect papers, books, photographs, all manner of memorabilia related to his hero. By the 1980's there was enough material to fill a room and North, with the help of local researcher Kathy Jones-Gates, persuaded the Klondike Visitors Association, which had care of the site, to clean things up a bit and add an interpretive centre to the mix. After a trial summer in one of Parks Canada's buildings, the centre opened on 8th Avenue and North began a new summer career as the interpreter and curator of his hero's legend.

These days Dick North splits the summer duties with Dawne Mitchell from mid-May to September, laying out the London legend and explaining how the cabin came to be relocated to town from the creeks. Of Dawson's three literary lions, London has by far the greatest international reputation, especially among Europeans. His fame is just one of the many things that bring thousands of visitors to the Klondike every year.

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Double Celebration

by Palma Berger


Newt Webster received a new scooter for his 90th birthday from his friends among the Masons. Photo by Palma Berger

July 1st was the occasion of a double celebration. The one being that the now renovated Masonic Hall in Dawson City was open for public viewing. The other was the occasion of Newt Webster's 90th birthday. At the Masonic Hall, Brendon White who is presently the District Deputy for the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon explained that Newt Webster is their most senior member of the Masons and has been a member for 57 years.

To mark the occasion a birthday cake and baked goodies was prepared by Lynn Nimmo. The veggie platter was provided by Klondike Kates. Friends gathered around as an electric scooter was presented to Newt by the Masons. On hand were Newt's daughter, Pat, and son Jim, as well as Masonic Lodge member, Tom Mickey up from Whitehorse.

Newt was delighted with the bright red scooter, but had to be dragged away to join friends and cut his birthday cake.

Renovations had been done to the exterior of the Masonic Hall, but it was always thought that the inside was rather dingy. Not so. White explained that he had found that the original colours were varying shades of blue. He redid the walls and patterned tin ceiling with these blues interspersed with a cream colour. The results were striking. He said the painting was all done with local labour. A Whitehorse mason came up to finish the wood work on the windows.

Upstairs the meeting room was also refurbished. The polished wood shone and the blues were repeated up here.

Part of the fund raising for this work was done by having funds donated in a new manner. The donor's name was placed on a chair. The donor who gave the $1000 had his name placed on the speaker's chair, the donors of $500 for the chairs on either side of the speaker's chair. Each donor who gave $100 had his name on one of the press backed chairs.

The windows that people recall as having been boarded up for so long had shining clean glass, and with the townsfolk mingling inside and being able to view the outside it made the Masonic Hall more a part of Dawson.

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Song of Shär Cho

by Anne Tyrrell


Michelle Olson and Kimberly Tuson pose for a picture after the performance. Photo by Anne Tyrrell

For the second year the Dänoja Zho Cultural Centre is home to Kimberly Tuson and Michelle Olson performing Songs of Shär Cho. The creative collaboration involves movement, video, music, and story telling.

The performance starts with a bare stage except for some candles, a large screen, a clothes line, and a row of rocks. Tuson and Olson walk on stage in the dark wrapped in white sheets and take their places. On a white projection screen is the northern lights. Tuson starts to dance while the northern lights reflect on the white sheet that is wrapped around her. She engages Olson, both dance making the northern lights come to life.

The audience sat engaged as they watched the fantastic movements which told the stories of various animals. A lady in the audience loudly mentioned, "that was a bear," she kept a running commentary of the animals as Tuson and Olson moved on to fish and caribou. The screen was changed to a video of the Porcupine Caribou herd as Tuson and Olson locked their shoulders to represent caribou in battle.

Then a story was performed that told of when animals walked upright. A few lines of text were projected behind the dancers. Later Olson explained what they have just danced. She tells the story about a time when animals walked up right and bear had a bag on its back. A curious person crept up and let the wind out.

The forms that were developed by combining the dancers motions were extremely moving. I found myself not looking directly at the dancers but at the reflections they were making on the screen. The different stories moved seamlessly into each other keeping the audience mesmerized.

Songs of Shär Cho was created by Michelle Olson and Kimberly Tuson and runs till August 17, Wednesday to Sunday 4pm costing $5.00 per person.

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Watercolours Of Mexico

by Palma Berger


Melinda Warren finds inspiration wherever she lives. Photo by Palma Berger

What does one do when one has a secure government job with all its securities, and one's daughter has finally graduated, and one does not now have all those responsibilities one once had? Why, one would quit the secure job and follow a dream.

This is what long-time Dawson resident, Melinda Warren did.

Warren has always been interested in painting. Her big love is watercolours. As a self taught artist she has struggled on to get it right. This is not to say she does not do lovely work, but rather it has been a rather tortuous path at times.

Her latest works may be seen at Tombstone Gallery at Tintina Bakery at Henderson Corner.

Her interest in art started early. When she found herself a single mum with a small child, she also found she could not afford drawing classes. So she became the model for life-drawing classes, and in the intermissions she wandered around to see how the students were doing the drawings.

Throughout her many years in Dawson City and later Whitehorse, she continued with her art. But when the chance came to devote more time to her watercolours, she took it. She resigned her government job, and got herself a position as a cook at a mining camp near Dawson. This is a six months period of employment. For the rest of the year, our winter, Warren now moves to Mexico, to Melaque, a small town on the west coast. Here she rents a small upstairs apartment in a family's house, and paints.

Not all the time; she must refresh herself with a swim first thing in the morning, then paint for about 6 hours and then complete the day. But as she said, "I have unlimited time now". She uses her art work to support her in different ways. She can sell her paintings on the beach, and she has traded a painting for a fish.

This showing of her work at Tombstone Gallery is named ‘Watercolours in Mexico'.

Her work shows the freshness and light that is found in Mexico. This is where the watercolours fit so well as they have an appropriate lightness about them. She has added ink to some of the pieces to define areas. This works well too.

She is thrilled that she now has the time to experiment, to do what she wants, when she wants. She tried acrylics but did not care for them, but is enjoying experimenting with oils..

Her work is mainly of Mexico. One, titled ‘Wish You Were Here', shows an inviting hammock surrounded by the shapes of greenery of a warmer clime. ‘Old Guy's Jardin', done with water colour and ink, has a comfortable flow about it. Warren says her paintings do reflect the mood she was in when she created them, and this painting was done when she was feeling very relaxed. ‘Downtown Melaque', again watercolour and ink shows shrubbery against stone walls, and older buildings. ‘Mexican Maytag', is the humorous title for the painting of the small laundry of the home where she lived. But unlike our laundries it has a variety of plants and shrubbery in it and a natural source of light.

‘Warm Night' is the entrance to her building. The coolness of the electric light cannot negate the warmth of the yellow of the stuccoed walls. This was a popular piece.

She also included a painting of what was old Mrs. Hunter's house, next to the Braga's on Third Avenue. It is good to see this very old house look alive again.

There are cards of her work for sale in the Gallery. Friends and visitors enjoyed being transported to a land of different warmth and light for an evening.

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Yael Brotman's "Shards"

by Anne Tyrrell


Yael in front of Fractured Heads. Photo by Anne Tyrrell

Yael Brotman opened her new show, "Shards", at the Odd Gallery on July 3. The opening reception started with a slide show and a talk from the artist about her past work. As Brotman went through the slides she talked about each period of her work. The slides showed a variety of different techniques and styles from a collection in 1999 about the immigrant experience to the collection that is on display at the Odd Gallery. She mentioned that when she gets comfortable with one type of work she likes to challenge herself with a new project.

After working for a while on small things, Brotman started to work on a triptych that had a 6 foot humming bird in it. She has also worked with large etchings that took three people to move it back into the press. Working with textiles is another challenge she enjoys.

Brotman was born in Israel, then immigrating to Winnipeg. She lives in Toronto where she teaches art and social history of ancient civilizations at the Royal Ontario Museum. In the summer of 2002 she was the artist in residence at KIAC.

In "Shards" Brotman has displayed three groups of work in one show. One of the people attending said, "It isn't at all what I expected, it is better." Many of the works in the show have pictures incorporated into them that will be familiar to Dawsonites.

One part of the show is framed works with many layers. The first layer being the splash of Indian ink and then a colored background leads the eye to the top layer which has a quirky mix of different things in each piece. "The edges of each work are frayed so that the viewer can get a hint of what is below the picture plane," stated Brotman in her artist's statement.

The other two sections are called Fractured Heads and Pluperfect Particles. Along one wall is a collection of smaller drawings and photographs, done while she was in Dawson City.

Fractured Heads drawings are done in black and white with a small colored piece superposed. If you stand very close you miss the "fractured head" but if you stand back you can see that the puzzle pieces make up a head of a man.

On the third wall the collection called Pluperfect Particles. The pieces of colorful work were painted with Indian ink first and then painted over with a solid color again. Each piece on the top layer has many different images and drawings painted over the layers. The actual wall of the gallery has been painted on one side with an old fashioned design roller, this gives it a yellow lacy feel to it.

Shards is an imaginative, innovated, and provocative show that will be enjoyed by each visitor to the gallery. ‘Shards" runs till August 11.

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