Dawson City, Yukon Friday, December 20, 2002

Long John Silver is captured during the climax to the musical play, Treasure Island. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Klondike River Rises Two Metres
Commissioner Swears in New Government Cabinet
A Lone Howl from the Far Side
Treasure Island Is Gold on Stage
Review: The Longest Night Arrived Early this Year
Youth Art Enrichment at the ODD Gallery
Tales with a Maritime Air
River Child on Tour in Dawson
Editorial: By Way of Explanation

Welcome to the December 20, 2002 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 38 photographs and 27 articles that were in the 32 page December 17 hard copy edition.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, Diane O'Brien's "Camp Life" cartoon, the Fraser's Edge 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. About 918 people read the last online issue of this paper (that's 43,109 hits since July 2000 and about 25,000 on the original counter before that), and we'd love to be sending out that many more papers. See our home page for subscription information.

An Appeal to Our Readers

A donation (we do give receipts) would help us to keep this website alive and also assist in the purchase of new equipment for our office. The address is on our home page. In case you hadn't noticed, we are a not-for-profit organization running on a shoestring with a part time employee and advertising revenue which has been hurt by the territory's sluggish economy.

Klondike River Rises Two Metres

by Dan Davidson


Whether it's global warming or just Klondike weirdness, the Klondike River thawed and rose 2 metres in December. Photo by Dan Davidson

The extent of the sudden rise in the level of the Klondike River was revealed December 12 in an interagency dispatch from local EMO coordinator John Mitchell.

Apparently the river had risen two metres in the previous forty-eight hours, an event which the memo laconically refers to as "above average for this time of year."

The rise is attributed to "an ice jam down stream from the Klondike River Bridge" and has resulted in "Minor Flooding ... in some areas at the base of the Dome Road."

The tailings piles form a hydraulic link through much of the area between the bridge and Crocus Bluff.

In an interview on Thursday afternoon Mitchell said this year's events are something new to him.

"I have never seen the Klondike River like this," said the head of Han Construction and leader of the Dawson Rangers, "never seen that kind of movement and breakup again at this time of year."

Official monitors didn't catch the changes in levels because it appears the water gauge near the bridge was frozen in place after the river broke and refroze the first time. The readings stop sometime on December 9 and don't begin to register again until after the rising water thawed it on December 12.

The very idea of having river water thaw anything this close to the middle of December is startling enough all by itself.

Mitchell thinks things are going to settle down. The ice jam seems to be near the Trans-North helicopter pad at the edge of town, but the water is making its way past that, following what Mitchell describes as three braided channels along the Klondike River flood plain.

The flows don't seem to be having any effect on the Yukon River, perhaps because they're not hitting it all at once. There, the ice is more than 18 inches thick, Mitchell says, on the path chosen by locals for the unofficial first edition of the seasonal ice bridge, which is now being travelled by vehicles as well as people and snow machines.

Wearing his Han Construction hat, Mitchell also ventured that there was no danger to the new housing units being constructed on the former tailings piles just west of the bridge. After the tailings were levelled off that area was raised an additional 1.5 metres to where is should meet the standards of the hypothetical 100 year flood levels.

Back on the EMO side of his activities, Mitchell did express concern about what this unseasonal freezing and thawing might mean come spring. When the Klondike went out the first time, a few weeks ago, ice blocks were left on the shoreline. Many of these subsequently ended up at the bottom of the river when the water levels rose again before the second freezing. He speculates that there may be some solid ice at the bottom of the river, narrowing the channel.

This situation will, he said, need to be monitored closely through the winter. If the river does finally freeze solid extraordinary measures, such as those taken at the Dempster Corner a few years ago, when an artificial channel was dug into the ice to aid the flow, might have to be taken.

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Commissioner Swears in New Government Cabinet


Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins is the new Minister of Health and Social Services in the Yukon Party government. Jenkins was elected for his third term by a healthy majority of 508 out of 932 votes cast (voter turnout 85%). Here, Jenkins is sworn in by Commissioner Jack Cable. Photo by Robin Armour, Government of Yukon

WHITEHORSE (November 30, 2002) Yukon Commissioner Jack Cable swore in the new Government of Yukon Cabinet, headed by Premier Dennis Fentie.

"I am pleased to present to the people of the Yukon, the members of this new government Cabinet,," said Fentie. "With this team we have much to accomplish and some very real challenges along the way, but I feel confident that this Cabinet has the talent and the depth to reach our goals and return prosperity to the Yukon."

The new Cabinet Ministers and their portfolios are:

Dennis Fentie: Finance, Executive Council Office, Devolution, Land Claims, Women's Directorate, Youth Directorate

Peter William Jenkins: Health and Social Services, Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board

John B. Edzerza: Education, Public Service Commission

Elaine Elizabeth Taylor: Business Tourism and Culture, Justice

Archibald Donald Lang: Energy, Mines and Resources, Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation

William Glenn Hart: Infrastructure, Community Services, Yukon Liquor Corporation, Yukon Housing Corporation

James Edmund Kenyon: Environment

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A Lone Howl from the Far Side

by Bridget Amos


The ice bridge is in early this year. People were walking across in just over 3 weeks and driving carefully in a month. Photo by Dan Davidson

I am writing this article by candle light in my home in West Dawson across the, as yet, Bridge-less Yukon River. It is about the Bridge and it would have been a letter if I had known who to address it to. Does this issue concern only Peter Jenkins? Or, Yukon Party leader Mr. Fentie? Or, the people of the Yukon? Or, the Tourists? From my perspective I think the Bridge issue does concern everyone, but I am writing this mainly to those who are trying to install it.

My husband and I moved from England in 1999 and spent 5 months travelling across a large part of Canada looking for a perfect place to really live life, to invest and to raise a family in. We found it here , in West Dawson. We knew, as does everyone who has bought property over here, who lives over here and/or who has a business over here, the situation of a ferry for 5 months a year (May - October, normally), waiting in the winter for freeze-up to be able to cross on the ice and then watching the ice rot in Springuntil break-up occurs.

People, who live over here walk, snow machine, mush, boat, canoe, take the ferry and drive to get to town. I regularly walk and in the summer that gives me a chance to talk to the tourists in the line up for the ferry. They usually appear to be quite busy, taking pictures of the ferry, visiting other tourists in the line-up and "C.B.ing" to their friends who have just made it across. When asked how it's going, the usual response, in my experience, has been that they "Don't mind the wait ...we're on holiday!" as well as "We're having a great time!"

I now am a stay at home mum, but for several years, twice a year: I would have to arrange to stay in town, as I had a full time employment. I didn't enjoy it, but it was, and is, a price I am willing to pay. The inconvenience may have us complaining but at least it makes us live a little more, if not merely to appreciate our homes that much better when we get to curl up beside our woodstoves once again.

One of the most fulfilling experienes of my life was walking to work across the frozen river in the darkness of winter. Just my unborn child and me, walking down river to get around the open water and then back up river, below the bluff of the mountain.The steam would rise from the open water, creating wisps of light. The quiet and the promise of wilderness around the bend down river would have the senses reeling, soaking up being outside. A bridge would shatter that experience, taking the wild out of wilderness, shine lights into the darkness and bring noise to the quiet. That's why I came here and that's why other people came here, because it's different and it's a challenge.

I had two jobs when I first came to town and one of them was at the Eldorado. Peter Jenkins would often tease me about living over here with no electricity for a hair dryer. I don't know that Peter completely understood or understands the lifestyle. Therefore, wouldn't he find it hard to place value on it? As a consequence he may not view a bridge as a threat to anyone. Does he see it merely as a possible means to extending the tourist season? Which is where I don't completely understand. Surely, the Alaskans may be hard pushed to keep their road open for longer than it already is?

The building of a bridge, for us, is a threat and one which is fulfilled would completely ruin our lifestyle and why we chose to settle and raise a family here. I lie in bed at night and watch the northern lights dancing in the darkness not lit up by street lamps. I wake in the night and stare at a mountainside full of trees not developed by housing. There are neighbours and a community who enjoy a similiar philosophy to living and valuing their chosen environment. "The last remaining frontier".

There are so few places in the world left like this one, is there not a responsibility for us to try and keep it as it is? For us to accept the role of caretaker? I can't speak for other parents, but I want my children to know it, as it is, as much as possible. Is there not enough pavement and bridges everywhere else?

Please don't put in a bridge, use the money where it's needed, where it will make a difference for the better and for the benefit of the whole community. Sometimes, just sometimes, things need to stay the same, for a change!

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Treasure Island Is Gold on Stage

by Dan Davidson


The finale brought out the entire cast. Photo by Dan Davidson

Audiences in Dawson spent the last weekend before the Christmas Break enjoying the return of the annual school musical. The combined efforts of the Robert Service School Choir and the other students in grades 4, 5 and 6 have been channelled into this production during the last couple of months.

This year's production was a musical version of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel, Treasure Island, as adapted for the stage with music by Mary Donnelly and George L.O. Strid.

In the familiar story young Jim Hawkins (Pascal Causer-McBurney) receives a treasure map from the dying Captain Billy Bones (Kimberly Graham) after the latter is marked for death by his former pirate comrades while staying at the Hawkins' inn.

Jim and his two young comrades, Jamie (Alix Causer-McBurney) and Molly (Amanda Graham) contact Squire Trelawney (Shawn Gillespie) who organizes an expedition on the good ship Hispaniola, headed up by Captain Smollet (Miriam Moore) and unfortunately crewed by the good friends of the one-legged cook, Long John Silver (Julia Spriggs).

Silver gets them as far as the island they seek, but them absconds with Jim and the map, leaving Trelawney and his loyalists to forge an alliance with the local natives, known here as the Pigaloos (who speak Pig-Latin, naturally). Together with the ancient Ben Gunn, a former associate of the pirate Captain Flint, who was abandoned there years earlier, the good guys manage to take advantage of the natural distrust the pirates have for each other. In the end Silver is arrested (and escapes) while Jim and his companions finally locate the treasure and live adventurously ever after.

The cast, led by director Betty Davidson and accompanied by pianist Brenda Caley, stretch out this basic story with eight lively show tunes.

"Somewhere There's a Great Adventure" deals with the desire for glory and challenge, while "Sailing Away" heralds the beginning of the journey. The crafty Silver sings about the benefits of "An Apple a Day" shortly after we meet him, but reveals his truer colours in "Rich, Rich, Rich" and "A Pirate Through and Through" later in the play.

Other numbers include "Captain Flint", the tale of a dastardly pirate; "We are the Pigaloo Tribe", the natives' war song; and the show ending finale "Pieces of Eight".

Despite the fact that there were 26 members of the cast, several of the players had to do double duty on stage. Solo singing was augmented by the use of strap-on microphones, which posed a challenge to the dressers as actors were readied for their turns on the stage.

Aside from the long preparation of the cast, many other students, their parents and their teachers pitched in to make the play a success. The program listed over 50 individuals who contributed to some part of the production: curtain, dressers, lighting,. sound, prompters, ticket sales, concession (baking and running), make-up, publicity, stage crew, costumes, doors and props.

Treasure Island marks a return to a tradition stretching back a dozen years, interrupted last year when Mrs. Davidson was cut back on her choir activities due to an operation her vocal chords.

Special mention should be made of Ms. Gwen Bell the choir's regular pianist, who worked with the show until she began her pregnancy, and Mrs. Brenda Caley, who has shared the labour (and joys) of accompaniment for the last two seasons, and stepped in to take over the keyboard for the final rehearsals and the three performances.

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Review: The Longest Night Arrived Early this Year

by Dan Davidson


The Bechstein concert grand was the centerpiece of this year's performance. Photo by Dan Davidson

Dawson got an early taste of the winter solstice when the Longest Night Ensemble arrived on December 7 for its second annual preview show at the Oddfellows' Hall.

This year's arrangement's in the hall were in keeping with the ensemble's tradition of mixing up the old and the new. First the room was laid out differently, partly to take advantage of the Bechstein grand piano on loan to the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture from Klondike National Historic Sites, and partly for the other thing I will mention later.

Those present at previous concerts (or owners of the CD produced in 1999) would have recognized a few of the evening's pieces, such as the Maritime sounding "On the Rock" and the eerie "Vampire Hunt", but there were new pieces as well, including Kim Barlow's "Lonely Mountain" and Daniel Janke's "Gypsy Goes North".

Old or new, many of the songs had a slightly different colour to them due to the presence of Justin Haynes on guitar, adding touches that were, by turns, mellowly acoustic or screamingly electric.

The innovation alluded to earlier came in the form of three videos, presented in what one might think of as an anachronistic style. Digital video productions processed through a computer and accompanied by live music, as in the days of the old silent films.

The first was "Madonna Mia". Shot by Andrew Connors and scored by Kim Barlow it was a look as the life of the Mancini family of Elsa, particularly the story of Mrs. Mancini, who journeyed there from sunny Italy with not a hint of the life she was to lead. Beautiful scenery combined with melancholy music and matter-of-fact narration to make a lovely little story.

More in tune with the season was "Santa Lucia", a film by Richard Lawrence in which a small boy is inspired by the legend of the Sicilian Santa Lucia (also known as Saint Lucy) to share the light and the joy of the season with those less fortunate than himself. (Check out Santa Lucia at http://www.umkc.edu/imc/stlucia.htm if you would like to know more about the legend and the imagery behind the December 13 saint's day.)

The final video was the melancholy (did I mention that some members of the ensemble seem drawn to minor key melancholia? - they did, and are) tale of "The Lottery Ticket", produced by Brian Fidler and Daniel Janke. A luckless loser has a few moments of absolute, wacky bliss just before his world falls apart and he discovers that he has just used up his lifetime quota of the good stuff. Poor Reuben.

It as a fine evening's entertainment, the icing on the cake being the goodies on sale at the concession. Since I am unlikely ever to be in Whitehorse on the night when the ensemble does this live at the Yukon Arts Centre, I hope they keep bringing us the preview show. On the basis of what I've seen, I can recommend the performance.

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Youth Art Enrichment at the ODD Gallery

by Palma Berger


Robin Touchie shows off her drawings. Photo by Palma Berger

The Young Authors Conference has proven so successful, so why not have a similar program for the young people who are artistically gifted? This was an idea that came out of a meeting between the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture and the Department of Education. KIAC proposed the development of enrichment courses for Yukon students between Grades 8 to 12 who are exceptionally gifted in the arts fields.

Last year the first of this programme was held in Dawson City. It proved so successful that it was offered again this year. Students came from Mayo, Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Dawson City. The four exchange students from Sweden, Norway, Germany and Japan, who also took part, were from Porter Creek and Vanier schools in Whitehorse. While in Dawson they had many questions about Dawson and two definitely announced they were going to return again some time in the future. The Department of Education provided the travel funding and the chaperones who were art teachers themselves. They chaperones took part in the classes and felt it was more like a pleasurable in-service training session.

The Youth Art Enrichment Programme was only possible by funding from the Department of Education, Northwestel (corporate sponsor), Youth Investment fund, Yukon Arts Fund. Add to this the help from many local businesses.

The work of the students was of such a high calibre that it had to be shown; so a Student Exhibition was staged in the Odd Gallery. At Opening Night a good crowd of family, friends and visitors gathered there.

There was this year's work as well as some of last year's work. Students were encouraged to leave a piece behind but many felt their work was too precious to be let out of their own hands. Last year's work included Northwest Coast style of art as taught by Ken Anderson. These pieces done in gouache by Melissa Matheson-Frost, Michelle Peter, Cody Nadeau and Ashley Feasby were distinctive in their colour and design. This year's soapstone carvings again taught by Ken Anderson produced some great work. The mixed media was taught by Janet Moore, and what looked like a creative mess at their venue, produced pieces whose colour, textures and designs were a delight. The range of work shown in charcoal, pencil and brush and ink drawings that came out of David Curtis' drawing class were a surprise. The video production team under the leadership of Paul Gowdie assisted by Paul Henderson, produced two videos that showed a new slant on life. Their submission for the 29 second advertising clip for Dawson's International Short Film Festival will "blow your socks away". These were shown in a corner of the Odd Gallery and drew many visitors.

The Director of the Odd Gallery, Mike Yuhasz, welcomed everyone, and said he was, "really pleased to see this show. The range and quality and diversification are commendable. The youth put so much into it. We have to thank Karen (Dubois) for putting so much effort into making it all happen."

Karen Dubois explained the funding for the Programme. All the work was matted and framed. Some frames were bought, others were part of the donation of frames by artist Danielle Shula. Funding for this was provided by the Yukon Foundation. Dubois thanked the helpers who helped get the show up, the many cooks and assistants who kept the meals going in St. Mary's Hall for the students and those who helped with the final banquet on Saturday night.

Drawing Instructor, David Curtis, said, "The whole week with the students was great. Incredibly inspiring. The youth who came were really passionate about their art, so the instructors had to treat the students as their peers. On the walls is only a small part of what they did. They were working at it like it was a full-time job. This programme is fantastic. I hope it carries on. I hope they extend it."

The Student Exhibition ran in Dawson City at the Odd Gallery until December 31st. Then it moves to Whitehorse. There it opens in the Children's Gallery of the Yukon Arts Centre on February 6th.

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Tales with a Maritime Air

by Dan Davidson


Wayne Curtis signs a book for Barb Hanulik. Photo by Dan Davidson

One of the nicest things an audience can say to a writer is "That sounds real. Sounds like you were there."

The other one, "Well, can you read us another story?"

Wayne Curtis, the New Brunswick writer currently wrapping up his stay as Berton House Writer in Residence, was paid both compliments during his public reading at the Dawson Community Library on Tuesday evening (Dec. 10).

Curtis hails from the Miramachi area of the Picture Province and many of his stories are about people coping with the changes in lifestyle that have come with the shift from an agrarian to an urban way of life. The two stories he read to his audience of half a dozen were from his collection Preferred Lies.

His first tale of the evening was a memoir of lost time in the voice of a man trying to come to terms with his youth, his relationship with his father and the sacrifices his mother made in order to be a hard-scrabble farmer's wife. It was a story filled with homey touches about berry picking trips, the strange adversarial love that can bind some couples together, and the choices that people have to make to keep their lives moving on.

Jack Fraser, a local raconteur, said that Curtis's story put him in mind of the many Martimers that he met when he first moved to the Yukon from Alberta many years ago. He said the writing took him right back to the stories he heard from them.

Curtis noted that some of the realistic touches in the story were influenced by his own life, or by stories he had been told by his father years before.

There followed a lively discussion about berry picking in the Yukon and in New Brunswick, including some tips on how to spot certain types of berries from the air by Simon Mason.

The second story was a coming-home tale, the story of a farm boy who finally returns home for Christmas after years of making his way in Ontario as a sailor on the Great Lakes.

The evocative details of rural life once again inspired a listener, Barb Hanulik this time, to say, "You must have been there."

In fact, some of the details, like using a knife to wedge a door shut and an old coat to cut the draft in the middle of a cold winter, were similar to those Curtis' older listeners recalled from not too distant history in the Yukon.

Another familiar element was the fiddle tunes which appeared in both of the stories. This was an autobiographical touch, for Curtis admitted to having been in demand as a fiddler at country dances in his youth. His parents, he said, used to ferry him around from place to place and pick him up afterwards.

"You heard about how Shania Twain used to get driven around to places by her mother to sing when she was young?" he said. "That was me, too, only with a fiddle."

Curtis is the author of two novels, One Indian Summer and Last Stand; two collections of short stories, Currents in the Stream and Preferred Lies; and two books about fishing, Fishing the Miramachi and River Guides of the Miramachi. He will be reading at the Whitehorse Public Library next week, on December 19.

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River Child on Tour in Dawson

by Dan Davidson


Eleanor Millard reading from her writing at Bombay Peggy's. Photo by Dan Davidson

When Eleanor Millard arrived in Dawson City in 1965 she really had no idea that she would be writing stories about her early days there 35 years later, or that she would publish nineteen of them in a book in the fall of 2002. Millard was in Dawson last week to promote her book, River Child, and to do some readings from it in the town.

She is well acquainted with the community, having been its social worker from 1965-69, a seasonal worker in a variety of jobs from 1972-74, and one of its MLAs from 1974-78, a stint which included six months as the minister of education. She remained in Dawson City until 1983, working as an adult educator in the employ of what was then called the Council of Yukon Indians (now Council of Yukon First Nations).

From her background in social work, politics and adult education Millard was exposed to a great deal of information about the relationships between the various racial communities in Dawson, the small town politics of the era, the ills of the residential school system and the tremendous pressures that have led to the Yukon's high suicide rate.

She has chosen to tackle these themes by turning them into stories, a book full of interlocking short stories that can be read individually but almost become a novel when you put them together.

As she explained to her audiences at Bombay Peggy's and later at the Dawson Community Library, the stories involve members and friends of the Mclean family. Dave Maclean had a daughter, Eliza, by his common-law Indian (to use the terms in the book) spouse, who then died while the child was young. Subsequently, Eliza was sent off to residential school, where she was sexually abused and eventually ran away home.

In due time she followed the path of a number of abused young women, had a child at an early age, didn't know what to do with her, took up drinking and faded out of the family picture, leaving Dave to raise Selena.

Some of the stories are told in the third person and involve either Selena or other people in the town, like the social worker, Michael Scott, or Selena's good friend, Julie Fuller. Others are written in the first person, in Selena's voice.

At Peggy's, Millard read from a story called "Big Betty's Revenge", about a deep winter fire that destroyed a one-time brothel; from "Flashlight Tag", a story about Selena and Julie playing in one of the old abandoned hotels that used to dot the Dawson streets; from "River Child", about a happy day that Selena spent near Moosehide; and from "Sleeping Forever", the dramatic tale of a suicide.

There were half a dozen people at Peggy's in the late afternoon and close to a dozen at the Library between 5:30 and 7 p.m.

River Child (Caitlin Press, 216 pages, $19.95) is powerful piece of writing, which, while it is full of sorrow and repressed rage, is also packed with true to life reflections on a way of life that rings true.

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Editorial: By Way of Explanation

by Dan Davidson


Santa arrives on the dyke on December 14 for a pre-Christmas visit. Photo by Dan Davidson

Some years ago we discovered that this was a good time of the year for us to take a break. This year, if we had another December issue it would have come out on the 31st. While it might have been nice to cover all those Christmas events before January there really wouldn't have been much for our advertisers to tell you about on the day before New Years.

Likewise, there wouldn't have been much news. Lots of social events, but there are only so many open houses that you can cover. We'll stick to the big social events and if people want other things in these pages they can write letters and send us pictures. (Hint, hint).

January's a slow month for us economically, but we try to make sure there are two issues each month (three in some), so we plan our publication dates around that. In addition, we need some time to make the switch to the new hardware and software that we've accumulated in the last month. We'll be back on the 14th and 28th of January, with deadlines the usual 5 days prior to the cover date.

Next issue you can expect a Christmas/New Year's wrap-up. We'll have an interview with Wayne Curtis, the Berton House Writer in Residence who is leaving us this week. We'll celebrate the anniversary of the "computer meltdown" at City Offices with a complete story on what actually happened then. We'll probably have chapter 15 of Dick Jeffers' memoirs.

We hope we won't be writing about the great December flood, and that perhaps we will be able to celebrate the falling of enough snow to make winter sports fans happy, as well as having the first pictures of people actually skating in the new arena.

In the meantime, have a happy holiday season.

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