Dawson City, Yukon Friday, July 12, 1996

Feature Stories

The Power of the Press Moves a Bank

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Dawsonites can soon expect to see $50 bills in the automatic teller machine at the CIBC, according to a recent article in the Financial Times.

Denny Kobayashi, general manager of the Klondike Visitors Association, says this seems to be a move to counter complaints which led to his being contacted by the Times for an interview in the first place a short time ago.

"We have an article on page 3 saying something like it's tougher to get cash than it is to get nuggets in Dawson," Kobayashi said in a July 3 interview.

"I guess this article turned bells and whistles on," he continued. Sources have told him that Margaret Needham, the regional manager and vice president to whom the complaints were addressed in a letter recently, took time out of her vacation to deal with the issue.

"Something isn't right here. When I walk in there and I see two tellers and seven people working ... that'd be like running a grocery store," said the former manager of the Dawson City General Store, "and having one cashier but eight people working in the background and huge lineups."

Staff cutbacks at the Dawson CIBC were a definite result of the introduction of the ATM machine, which Kobayashi, the town council and the chamber of commerce all feel has been far more successful than the bank ever believed it would be. The issue of ATM downtime and service interruptions has been a steady topic at city and chamber meetings throughout 1996 so far.

The Financial Times reporter who interviewed Kobayashi told him that it was "very seldom if ever that a community group collectively goes after a bank. Occasionally you'll have a business, a corporation, a city or a municipality unhappy, but very seldom where it's a community effort."

"I expect we're going to hear from the bank formally," he said, and you could almost hear him grinning.

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Returning to the Beat of the Drum

By Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

If taking control of your stories is the beginning of controlling your culture, then the Tr'ondek Hwech'in have made such a beginning with the creation of "Beat of the Drum", the first presentation of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Summer Theatre Project, which debuted here on June 21.

Designed as a work of reader's theatre, "Beat of the Drum" is a series of vignettes in Klondike native history, unified by the device of having the actors dressed in totemic animal costumes throughout the one hour piece.

They arrive to the beat of a drum, whose rhythmic and symbolic significance is played upon throughout the performance. Bear, Wolf, Beaver, Muskrat, Wolverine and Raven parade into the hall and make an unsuccessful attempt to pass on the drum to a Child. Then they settle to the business of their story, which is the story of their people.

Banter among the beasts leads to the telling of several oral legends and finally into the period of time when everything changed for the original inhabitants of this valley - the time of the Gold Rush. The audience is led through a series in sequences which deal with this time period, the first Yukon Indian representations to Ottawa, the days of cultural decline and on to the residential schools.

The broad sweep of history is given as a narrative, punctuated by more personal vignettes and separated by chants and dances. As the Han who made up most of the aboriginal inhabitants of this valley are pushed from Klondike City to Dawson and then down the river to Moosehide, we slowly move to the conclusion that a crisis has arrived in the lives of these people.

"I think it got worse," is one refrain from early in the play. Later, the players conclude that Ottawa was unable to understand their concerns early in the century.

"What a waste of time that was," is the conclusion drawn about the trip made there by their representatives.

The cultural crisis is stated clearly: "It was too late. Out tradition and heritage had started to fade and disappear... (It's) hard to keep time without the beat of the drum or sing songs when you no longer have the words."

"But what do you do when that dream fades and dies?"

"Well, we won't let it."

Raven, the trickster/helper of so many west coast and Yukon legends, is given a commission by the spirit of the people.

"Raven, you must fly away with our songs, dances, stories and drums and store them where they can be protected until there comes a time when we can share them with pride and honesty...a time when we have found our power. "

The hard times were not over. Residential schools further diluted the culture, overlaid it with a pattern of standard Canadian education, language and customs, imperfectly transplanted and often poorly nurtured. The cost was the identity of a people, who returned confused, dissatisfied, ill at ease in either of worlds they knew.

Several sequences are used to show how the next generation adopted so much of the standard culture around them ("Beatlemania", for example), and lost their own roots, paving the way for a great deal of substance abuse and interpersonal violence. One couple fights constantly due to their inability to communicate with each other. Another young woman dies at 37 after a life of alcohol abuse.

As the play draws to a close, the totem narrators begin to stir with the life of the old ways. The things that Raven had rescued are returned to the people. Finally, the Child accepts the gift of the drum and leads the troupe in a dance before they exit.

The actors, Deb Nagano (Bear), Freda Roberts (Wolf), Jackie Worrell (Beaver), Marge Kormendy (Muskrat), Edith Fraser (Wolverine), and Michelle Oleson (Raven), did a fine of job of projecting their voices through the costumes and managing to make other parts seem real in spite of the necessary physical limitations imposed by their animal personae.

Olseson was especially effective in her evocative dances, which accompanied most of the chanting sections. Kyrie Nagano, as the Child, had a small but vital role in the play.

Director Kathryn Bruce did a find job of putting all the pieces together and making an interesting production out of a piece that had the potential to be quite static if not handled well.

"Beat of the Drum" was sponsored by the Yukon Anniversaries Commission, the Yukon Lottery Commission and the Tr'ondek Hwech'in. It was presented once again during the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Youth Conference this week and will be seen at least once more later in the summer.

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Music Festival Preparations are in High Gear

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Planning for the 18th edition of the Dawson City Music Festival is in its final stages. If you want proof, just try to get in touch with Jennifer Edwards, the festival's coordinator. The telephone and the fax machine are ringing off their cradles, and Jennifer is engrossed in last minute details.

Is it okay to use the Palace Grand Theatre this year? Will the renovations at Saint Paul's Anglican church be far enough along to permit one of the evening listeners' concerts to be held there? Probably but the refurbished St. Mary's Catholic church is booked as well.

The sit-down concerts are a quiet and more intimate alternative to the noisier affairs in the main tent at Minto Park, but there will be three of those as well, one each night of the festival, from July 19 to 21.

In addition, there will be a young peoples' dance at the Youth Centre on Saturday night, featuring the bands Hoop and Undertow.

The even younger set will be well looked after too, with the usual Saturday morning concert, parade and activities. This year, however, Edwards says Klondike National Historic Sites is pitching in to extend the fun well into the afternoon.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of the festival, and this year Yukon Electric is sponsoring a volunteer tent to help look after them.

* * *

The musical lineup is large and varied.

"The number of performers is larger than normal this year, especially with the Big Band from Whitehorse," Edwards says.

Celtic music is represented by Orealis, from Quebec. JackSOUL hails from Guelph and specializes in soul sounds. Rockabilly and swing will come from Vancouver's Ray Condo & the Ricochets, while the delta blues will be represented by Tim Williams and his band, lately of Calgary. Nico Beki and a 7 piece band from Montreal will bring a Brazilian sound to the festival.

From Toronto Jack Grunsky will be the lead childrens' entertainer this

year, while Cate Friesen and her quartet will bring the folk sounds.

The Vancouver foursome of Big Yellow Taxi will add a blues edge to that same genre and Juno's Buddy Tabor trio will dabble in country/folk.

Nationally known Comic and musical entertainer Lorne Elliot (heard last winter on his CBC radio series "Madly off in All Directions") will be this year's master of ceremonies. The performer notes say that Lorne is allergic to dust, so Dawson may prove a challenge for him if the weather is fine.

From Whitehorse, we will see the usual suspects: Daniel Janke, Jayne West, Average Joe, The Pedestrians, Weenie Tatoes, Dave Haddock, the Big Band, Sundog, Hoop, Undertow and the Main Street Buskers. Many beautiful music friendships will be made and renewed.

* * *

Accommodation is always a challenge at the festival, with many hundreds of additional bodies squeezed in to Dawson's already heavily booked spaces. Last year's crowd reportedly shoe-horned up to 9 tents onto one camping spot at the government campground in West Dawson, and then got rather noisy after the shows ended. Other campers complained.

This year overflow camping arrangements are being made below the Crocus Bluff area just at the entrance to town. City council has approved the request for these arrangements, was quick to point out that they weren't interested in setting this up as the approved party spot for the weekend.

Edwards says this is not the festival's intention. The overflow was seriously needed, however.

A Lotteries application this year brought the festival a new trailer to store and move its tent on and a new "tent end". The cooperative sharing of facilities with the Storytelling Festival continues this year. Dawson's red tent was in Whitehorse for the June event and their blue one will be added to ours to make the venue here in July.

So what else is needed? Well, Edwards and a group of volunteers are spending quite a bit of the week assembling the program for the weekend, which will be published as a 12 page insert in the June 12 edition of the Klondike Sun. Keep a look out for that for more details.

Oh, and no, there is no truth to the rumour circulating throughout British Columbia that Neil Young is coming to the festival this year. At least, no one here knows anything about it.

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Dawson Post Office Expands

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Dawson residents had two surprises when they visited the Post Office on July 2. The first was that there was no mail after the long weekend. The second was that the lobby had been completely changed. The construction work was the cause of the first surprise.

Beginning after hours on June 28, Han Construction had changed the interior structure of the lobby, transforming an open rectangular room lined with lock boxes into a corridor facing a series of box lined alcoves - at first glance almost like a maze.

The changes enabled Canada Post to add an additional 594 lock boxes to the 900 that were already in place, making a new total of 1494. It's a fairly major undertaking for a condemned building that Public Works Canada was planning to move everyone out of just last winter. Canada Post has funded the renovations in order to improve customer service.

"We have almost 700 people in general delivery alone," said Postmaster Lambert Curzon. "We won't be able to get them all out of general delivery (because) we already have applications for about 225 (boxes). It's going to take us awhile to get these all assigned. We needed more lock boxes. That was a given."

The corporation isn't finished yet. The next project is to expand the truck bay at the rear, creating a room there and extending the dock out into the back lane on a 45 degree angle. This will keep the delivery truck from having to worry about the vehicles in the parking lot opposite the current ramp.

In keeping with its celebration of the Gold Rush Centennials, the redecorated post office will have a wall painting inside to highlight that theme. One thing is certain, the new notice boards are going to have a lot more wall space than the old ones.

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KVA Plugs in with HyperTech

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Dawson City's first commercial InterNet node is up and running in a room at the offices of the Klondike Visitors Association. The KVA has struck a deal with HyperTech North to provide services to this community and eliminate the long distance telephone billing which has so hampered the growth of web use in the town.

The link outside of the Yukon hadn't quite been finished on July 3, but the local and territorial line was working. KVA had forms for signing up customers and training schedules were already being planned. Interest in the community has already been keen, judging from the telephone calls at the KVA offices.

The association has negotiated a special introductory package for businesses and residents who are KVA members. This is potentially anyone in Dawson, the way the organization works.

Tourism Yukon has been promoting the InterNet for marketing for some time, but residents outside of Whitehorse, even with the long distance reductions offered under the introductory Yukon Net program, were facing substantial telephone bill increases just learning how to use the web.

The KVA board was interested in helping the Dawson service sector to make effective use of the net and make it easily accessible. Kobayashi says that HyperTech provided the proper balance of hardware and software support to make things work most smoothly.

The deal gave the KVA the pricing and support it wanted, while HyperTech got access to the KVA's connections within the community. YKnet has already taken steps to establish a node here, but Kobayashi figures that will simply make for healthy competition in terms of service and resources.

"It was time that we were up and running," he says.

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