Dawson City, Yukon Friday, October 31, 1997

The Berton family at home in Dawson in the 1920's. That's young Pierre on the ground with the Prince Valiant haircut. The photo is from volume one of his autobiography, Starting Out.

Feature Stories

The Story of Berton House
Incumbents Comfortable in Dawson
Uffish Thoughts: Inside the Polling Station with 900 Little Pieces of Paper
Yukon Legislature to Sit in Dawson in 1998
McDonald Assesses Priorities in Dawson
Board Meeting Postponed
Family Conferencing Meeting Slated for October 30
Commentary: Flushed with Success
Dawson First Nation Begins Building Projects for the Winter
River of Gold

The Story of Berton House

by Ken Spotswood
Freelance journalist

It's a plain-looking little house that sits at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Hanson Street in Dawson City. It's painted white with green trim, and most people wouldn't give it a second glance--except for the sign outside that reads 'Berton House'.

For 12 years it was the family home of Frank and Laura Berton, their son Pierre and daughter Lucy--and their pet dogs Grey Cloud and Spark. The Bertons bought the house in 1920 for $500. They added a room, and when they left Dawson in 1932 they sold it for the same price. Pierre was 12 years old then. Lucy was 11. No one--least of all him--had any idea that he was headed for a distinguished career and international recognition as one of Canada's most celebrated authors and broadcasters.

The original house measured nine metres by 12 metres (30 feet by 40 feet) and was built by George Craig in 1901. It had clapboard siding which made it stand out among the many log cabins and shanties of Dawson during the post-gold rush era.

Ironically, it's located on a stretch of Eighth Avenue that has become known in Dawson as 'Writer's Row'. Directly across the street from Berton House is the log cabin where Robert Service lived and wrote some of his early verse on the wallpaper. A short block away is Jack London Centre, which contains half of the log cabin occupied by the legendary author of 'Call of the Wild' and 'White Fang' during his prospecting days in the Klondike Gold Rush era. (The other half of London's cabin is part of a similar tourist attraction at London's birthplace in Oakland, CA.).

Berton House is now the official home of the Yukon's writer-in-residence program. The dwelling was acquired by the Yukon Arts Council in 1989 thanks to a generous donation of $50,000 from Berton.

In a joint project involving the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) and the Yukon Arts Council, the two-bedroom bungalow has been completely renovated by the KVA at a cost exceeding $100,000. Additional funds have been allotted for landscaping in 1997.

Denny Kobayashi, Executive Director of the KVA, says the house remains on its original lot but was relocated to a new, insulating gravel pad to protect it from permafrost.

"While the shell of the house remains intact, it has been re-insulated and re-wired," Kobayashi said. "New plumbing has been installed throughout. It's been painted inside and out and has been completely refurnished."

For its part, the Yukon Arts Council is responsible for furnishing the house and financing the writer's retreat program for professional Canadian authors. The program was established to give them a Yukon experience--as well as the valued time and a place to write. If accepted, an author can live in the house rent free for up to six months.

The program got off to a successful start in 1996 with the three-month stay of Toronto writer Russell Smith, whose first novel 'How Insensitive' won praise and was a finalist for the Governor General's Award.

Smith--an urban hipster who later admitted he'd never been further north than Bloor Street in Toronto--lived at Berton House where he completed a draft of his second novel, another comic satire of city life called 'Noise'.

When the restoration project first began, Berton was a little skeptical about restoring the house to its original state. "I'm afraid if you were to restore this house to the way it was when the Berton family lived there in the 1920s, you wouldn't get anyone who would want to stay--it would be too uncomfortable," Berton wrote to the KVA in 1990.

"I should tell you that we had no bathroom at that time...We had no running water. The only convenience was a single holer in the basement which was reached not by a stairwell, which didn't exist, but by a ladder leading down from a trap door in the kitchen. I remember it well because the trapdoor was left open one day and I tumbled down it, without any perceptible injury," he wrote.

The sounds of the typewriter, however, are not new to the house, or the Berton family. They have, as the saying goes, 'ink in their blood'. Laura Berton is the author of "I Married the Klondike", which has become a Canadian classic--a social history that describes her first years in Dawson as a single woman and school teacher.

Her father, Phillips Thompson, was a respected journalist and author in eastern Canada who founded a political weekly, The National, worked as a reporter for the Toronto News, the Telegraph and the Mail and Empire. Thompson later became a columnist and foreign correspondent for The Globe. "I remember him in his last years working away at a roll-top desk in his study in Oakville, Ontario, as I remember my mother scribbling away on the dining room table in our home in Dawson City, and my father pecking out the result for her on an old Underwood upright," Pierre wrote in the introduction to his mother's book.

Long before it occurred to Laura to write about her personal experiences as a young teacher in the Klondike, she spent years working on a novel about an English aristocrat on an Ontario farm. "It was called 'Then Alice Came Home' and it ran to several hundred pages," Pierre recalled. "She used to read sections of it aloud to us and I can still remember the first line: 'Mrs. Barnes was making cookies.' We all thought it was wonderful and were perfectly convinced that it would become a best seller and we would all be rich. Alas, it made the rounds of all the publishers but it never saw print."

Laura later realized her dream when 'I Married the Klondike' was published in 1954, which brought her a small amount of fame. In it, she described the family home and their lifestyle:

"I settled down to keeping a house that, apart from electricity, had no modern conveniences. Our water, for instance, was delivered during the winter months by two men on a cart, four times a week...The two of them would trudge in, their clothes caked with snow and ice, their moustaches icicled, bearing two wire-handled petrol tins full of water, which they hoisted and slopped into a tank in the corner.

"A great deal of the water spilled over on to the floor, where it almost instantly froze into a thin sheet, so that when we rose we were faced with a miniature skating rink in our kitchen."

The trap door in the kitchen floor led to the cellar which contained not only the afore-mentioned toilet, but the family's cloakroom, a cold storage room for fruit and vegetables, the furnace and as many cords of wood that could be crammed in.

In the early years the whole family slept in the one bedroom--Frank and Laura in a double bed, Pierre and Lucy in cribs on either side. Frank added a spacious new kitchen addition to the north end of the house about 1926, after which everyone spread out. The old kitchen became Lucy's new bedroom. Frank's old den became Pierre's bedroom, and Frank and Laura finally had some privacy.

During the summer the family's garden flourished with vegetables and a colourful display of flowers. "Our finest crop was spinach, which we gathered by the bushel and bottled for winter use," Laura wrote. In the winter, keeping home and hearth together in temperatures of 50 degrees below zero was--and still is--a full-time job in Dawson City. The Berton home was no exception:

"Each fall we pasted every window down with heavy paper so that no breath of air could enter. Our only ventilation was in the bedroom, where Frank had an ingenious arrangement above the bed consisting of a length of stove pipe stuck through the wall with a tight lid on a hinge which could be opened or closed by pulling on a rope to admit an icy blast of air. We needed no refrigeration, of course. Anything placed on the back porch froze solidly at once."

The kitchen was the most important room in the house. It's where the family meals were cooked and eaten. It's where the whole family--including Grey Cloud and Spark--took their weekly Saturday night bath. "We didn't even have a bathtub," Pierre recalled. "I bathed in an iron laundry tub once a week."

On Mondays the laundry was soaked and wrung out to dry on a complicated arrangement of ropes and pulleys suspended from the ceiling. In the fall the kitchen was the room where Frank butchered the annual caribou, as well as ducks and fish. It's where Laura bottled spinach and canned preserves for the winter. It was also Pierre's and Lucy's nursery, and it's where Laura did her writing late at night after the chores were done. In addition to working on her novel, Laura also wrote articles for the Dawson News.

"I can remember taking her copy down to the office on Third Avenue," Pierre wrote. "The first galley proofs I ever saw contained her accounts of various concerts and minstrel shows in the Arctic Brotherood Hall." Frank Berton was a man of many talents who is warmly remembered by Pierre. "My father was a man of enormous curiosity--a wildflower collector and amateur astronomer who read Anglo-Saxon and did algebra problems as a hobby.

"He was, among other things, a dentist, a civil engineer, a cabinet maker and a weaver. He was also a remarkably good teacher; you couldn't be with that man for five minutes without learning something."

For years Frank worked as the mining recorder in Dawson--until the Depression of the 1930s found its way to the Yukon. In 1932 the government informed Frank that his job was being eliminated for economic reasons. At age 60, he was given a small pension and the Bertons prepared for retirement.

The house was sold. Grey Cloud had grown old and blind and was mercifully shot in the woods one night by Frank after the children were in bed. Spark had died a few years earlier after a porcupine quill became lodged in his brain.

The Bertons stayed for the annual Discovery Day festival on Aug. 17, 1932. The next day they boarded the riverboat Casca for their journey 'Outside', which eventually took them to Victoria, B.C., after 25 years in Dawson City. For Frank and Laura it was the end of an era, but for Pierre and Lucy it was the beginning of new events which would re-shape their lives. Pierre recalled getting his start as a writer after joining the Boy Scouts in Victoria. "I published a newspaper for the Scouts, then another one at the high school--five copies, which I typed with one finger and rented out for a cent or sold for a nickel...

"Writing was a natural thing for me, yet when I was in high school I didn't think of becoming a writer; I decided I would become a chemist. I'd hold chemistry shows in my garage for a nickel, and I'd bring in about 20 kids. I changed the color of water; I blew up things; I created mounds of ash in a single motion; I made dust explosions..."

"By my second year of college, when I found I was spending all my time on the college paper, I decided to switch courses and become a journalist." Lucy Berton Woodward also became an author. She later wrote two children's books, one of which was co-written with her mother..

"I didn't really have an ambition for writing. It was more of a copycat kind of thing," she said in an interview in Dawson in 1996. "Pierre started writing when he was in the Scouts in Victoria. The first writing I did was in high school there. We started a newspaper and I wrote a mystery story. In college (at the University of B.C.) I worked on the Ubyssey newspaper and became a senior editor. I later got a job with the now-defunct News Herald in Vancouver.

"My mother and I collaborated on 'Johnny in the Klondike'. I wrote 'Kidnapped in the Yukon' which came out in 1968."

Four generations later the Berton literary tradition continues. Lucy's son Berton Woodward is World Editor of Macleans magazine. Her daughter Paisley became a lawyer, but later quit the legal profession to become a journalist and now works for CBC radio in Vancouver. Last but not least, Pierre's son Paul is a senior copy editor, columnist and sits on the editorial board of the London Free Press newspaper in Ontario.

Meanwhile, through the combined efforts of the Klondike Visitors Association and the Yukon Arts Council, Berton House will continue to be the Yukon home of Canadian authors through the writer-in-residence program.

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Incumbents Comfortable in Dawson

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

It was a good night to be an incumbent politician in Dawson last night. All three of the returning members of council were returned to their seats in voting here. That includes the mayor and two councillors.

Glen Everitt says that people kept telling him he would win reelection by a landslide, but the new mayor-elect of Dawson City says he never expected that to happen. He's figured it would be about 100 votes and he's happy with a margin of 124. In all he picked up 299 of the 483 votes that were cast, while political newcomer Carol McBride collected 175.

"It just means I'll have to work harder," said Everitt from the site of his victory celebration at the Eldorado Hotel.

In the meantime he thinks it's interesting that Dawson has elected such a strong female council. It's only a few years back that this would have been a rare thing, but it now seems quite common.

"I'm happy," said Carol McBride, who sat in on the ballot counting process. "175 people think I would have done a good job. I would have been happy with 100."

That doesn't mean that she didn't run to win, but she switched her target from a council seat to the mayor's seat mainly because it looked like Everitt would get in unopposed.

She doesn't think that a lack of competition would make for good democracy.

She's found the process of running very interesting, but is puzzled by the lack of information about how to do it. When she was considering a council run it was easy to ask councillors who were stepping down how to go about it. But when she shifted her sights to the mayor's job, she didn't feel comfortable asking Everitt for advice on how she should conduct a campaign.

She's not finished with politics either. She figures this level of support on a late start might give her a good run at the MLA's job in a few years.

In the meantime she was off to celebrate. "Congrats to Glen Everitt," she quipped, "but I'm going for Glenlivit." [SPELL THAT FOR ME, PLEASE. I'M A NON-DRINKER.]

Veterinary technician Aedes Scheer led the council pack with her 344 votes. She says that brings her total number of jobs to about 10 and means that days need to be about 3 hours longer for her now.

She attributes her strong showing to housecalls. It's not that she did a lot of door knocking, it's just that she spends a lot of time in peoples' house dealing with their animals. She's seen how a lot of Dawson lives and they've seen her at work.

"We talk politics while we're waiting for the dog to wake up."

Incumbents Shirley Pennell and Eleanor Van Bibber were returned to council with 292 and 263 votes, and joined by Joanne Van Nostrand, who followed Van Bibber by 2 votes. There was strong competition for the third and fourth places throughout the evening and fifth place Joy Taylor was three votes away from a tie for the last seat.

Candidates Renee Mayes and Darell Lind finished well out of the running, though not so far down as to be embarrassed by their support.

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Uffish Thoughts: Inside the Polling Station with 900 Little Pieces of Paper

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Call me strange, but there's something exciting about sitting in on the ritual ballot counting which follows a day's worth of vote casting. Unless you've been doing an exit survey, this is the first time you get any true indication of what's been going on during the previous 12 hours.

Dawson's polling station at the Bonanza Centre opened at 8 a.m. on election day and closed at 8 p.m. Planning to stay for the 2 hour lock-up which would follow the poll's closing, I saved my my own trip to the voting booth until just a few minutes before the end. I was close to the last of the day's participants in democracy.

Typically, a number of the candidates will be there to make their own tally along with the election officials. They may have a friend or two with them. or send an appointed scrutineer to give them an early report of the results later.

In Dawson it's not a terribly formal process. We had three returning officers. Their chief distributed tally sheets to anyone who wanted to make the attempt, then settled in with sheets of her own. The second officer would be the one to open the folded ballots and read off the names. The other two would tick off accumulated numbers as they rose.

The tally sheets look like column paper with columns of spaces to mark in each vote as it's called off. The spaces are grouped in rows of 5 to make for easy counting at the end, with each column worth a total of 115 votes. The officials don't mind extra counters, since the more people that come up with the same numbers at the end the more legitimacy is conferred on the results.

The tallying process is helped no end if you can manage to write down the names of the candidates in the order that they were printed on the ballots. That's the order they'll be read in after all, and it saves a lot of searching if you can get it right. Of course, I didn't, which meant that sometime during the process I was doomed to become cross-eyed.

We begin with the advance polls this year. The results of this small number of votes doesn't really bear much resemblance to the end results, but when it's all you have it makes you begin to speculate.

On to the councillor candidates, then. There are seven on the ballot and you can mark four, but not all people do. You can get any combination from one to four, but if you go above that it's a spoiled ballot. In terms of marking it can get a bit strange though. You fall into a pattern of hearing and marking four names - a...b...c...d, etc. - so when there's just one it's almost a shock to the system.

Other things happen. Mostly the official will call off the candidates' first names, but sometimes she will slip and use the last name, or even the nickname if the person has one. We treat it as a tension breaker, take a deep breath, rub our eyes and more on. With 451 ballots marked, that's 1804 little slash marks to make, 360 times to hear the call of "check" each time a candidate reaches the next group of 5 slashes.

At first the pack is close together. The first 20 or so ballots show an even distribution. Then five of the columns begin to lengthen faster than the other two. There's a good deal of jockeying for position among these columns for a time and then one of them surges way out in front and stays there. It's clear early on that the dog lady will be on council.

The cross-eyed effect gets really bad when it turns out that two complete sheets aren't enough for the top five and we have to start working backwards on the sheets we have already slashed, making x-marks out of our previous slashes.

After a time it seems fairly certain that the vice-principal will probably win her seat back. Though her margin over the next three isn't enormous, it's steady. The next three see-saw back and forth until the end. The other incumbent, the hotel owner and the recreation board member end up separated by a mere five votes when it's over. Watching them wax and wane is a bit like looking at a slow motion version of those vernier sound levels meters on your stereo system.

We move on to the mayor's count. We search to make sure that we can put together three sets of double columns on our sheets, because that last bit was a killer.

This is easier. Just two names. The early returns show the recycling lady slightly out front ... then they're even ... then the incumbent mayor edges head ... then he's behind again. This inchworm's race goes on for a about a third of the first set of columns, until he finally pulls clearly ahead and stays there, increasing his lead. At this point the challenge for markers is not to fall into the hypnotic trap of continuing to mark the same name all the time. After all, he only picks up about 62% of the vote in the end, and you have to be careful to give credit where it is due.

It's over about two hours after it began. We feel a bit like acolytes of the deeper mysteries when we leave. Other people can talk about the results, but we watched them take shape. Maybe we should start a club. Have passwords, secret handshakes and cryptic codes...

Hmmmm. Maybe it's a good thing this only happens every three years...

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Yukon Legislature to Sit in Dawson in 1998

WHITEHORSE - The Yukon Legislative Assembly will mark the Yukon's 100th birthday by holding a special sitting in Dawson City on Saturday, June 13, 1998.

The leaders in the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Hon. Piers McDonald, John Ostashek and Pat Duncan have agreed to this special sitting. It will take place exactly 100 years after the Yukon Territory Act, which created the Yukon as a separate territory under law, received Royal Assent.

The sitting will take place the original chambers of the legislature in the Old Territorial Administration Building, now the hove of the Dawson City Museum.

Dawson was the capital and seat of government of the Yukon Territory until Whitehorse became the capital in 1953.

Arrangements for this special sitting in 1998 will be made by the Legislative Assembly staff under direction of the Members of the Assembly.

In recognition of the many celebratory events taking place at the same time, planning for the sitting will be done in consultation with, among others, the Commissioner of the Yukon, the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society, and the Klondike Visitors Association.

On February 8, 1995 the Assembly passed a motion, moved by David Millar, Member for Klondike during the 28th Legislature, which stated that the House officially recognizes June 13 as the Yukon's birthday.

This will not be the first occasion on which the Assembly has returned to Dawson City and its original chambers.

On the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Yukon Territory, the Assembly held a special session in Dawson City on June 13, 1973 at which time the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien, then Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, addressed the House.

In 1977, the Assembly again sat in Dawson City, this time in recognition of Dawson City's Diamond Jubilee. Restoration of the old Assembly chambers had begun under the direction of the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society and the Assembly was able to sit in circumstances very closely approximating those of the early years.

Eleven years later, the Assembly held a two day sitting in the fully refurbished chambers on March 23 and 24, 1988. This sitting was in response to a motion passed in 1986 (moved by Art Webster, Member for Klondike during the 26th and 27th Legislatures) recognizing the historical significance of the former chambers and advocating that the House sit there on occasion.

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McDonald Assesses Priorities in Dawson

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff


When there's this much ice in the Yukon River, the season is over. Diane Marengere snapped this photo of the George Black Ferry looking stranded during the layout weekend for the October 14th Sun. The ferry was out of the water two days later.

Government Leader Piers McDonald wasn't holding out any promises when he appeared in Dawson on October 22. He made that clear from the beginning, noting that, while his government expects a $24 million surplus at the moment, that could change.

Over the last year there have been increased expenses in the area of health care. The shutdown at the Anvil Mine cut into the economy, Unemployment has been high. All of these things have tended to drag on the economy.

In addition, this year there are several projects - such as the hospital in Whitehorse and the Shakwak Project on the north Alaska Highway - that are over, and won't generate any substantial spending. Their stimulative effect on the economy will be gone.

McDonald indicated that the government was attempting to budget within the realities of these facts, but also trying to build some stability into the process, to project several years down the road and try to create a bit of predictability for people in terms of what funding might be expected for certain types of projects.

His pledge is that there will be no tax increase and no major cuts to services, but that doesn't mean that there won't be belt-tightening and reallocation of resources.

"I'm pleading with people," he said, describing his conversations about the need for restraint. Sure communities may have wish lists, but he urges them not to make them too long or the government won't be able to "breathe under the crush of expectations..."

None of the foregoing prevented anyone from complaining or asking for McDonald's aid in their particular causes. There were only about a dozen people in attendance, but the predictable Dawson questions came up.

Miner Greg Hakonson wanted to know what plans there were for the Yukon river crossing, a circumspect phrase which McDonald correctly translated to mean "bridge".

"Next summer it'll be a ferry," he said, admitting that a bridge is way outside of the government's ability to finance now. There are still studies under way, he noted, and the question is not closed. There hasn't been a decision made NOT to build a bridge.

Lori Sprokkreeff, mother of three active boys, petitioned for an increased playing filed area for the Robert Service School. The existing area is barely large enough to handle grades 1 to 6 in the mornings and at noon. The trouble is that those in grades 7 to 12 who might wish to throw a ball around really have no place to go. Sprokkreeff says the existing playground is the smallest of any school in the Yukon.

The government does own several lots across Fourth Avenue from the school, purchased when school expansion was the plan instead of an eventual second school. Sprokkreeff suggests levelling off and snow fencing some of this area and leaving it for the older kids to burn off some energy on.

Helen Winton, representing the school council, seconded the idea with alacrity, but move on to express the council's own concerns over the increasingly tight program space within the school.

"I'm a little disillusioned with government," she said, tracing the history that brought the expansion of educational space here to its currently stalled state. The council of the day had asked for an expansion and the government of the day came back with a proposal for a second school. The trade-off was that the town had to accept portable classrooms in its school yard for what was supposed to be a limited number of years.

Expansion, she said, "has to be a priority somewhere for Dawson."

McDonald, who approved the construction of the existing school as education minister 8 years ago, was cautious on the subject of promising anything. He says the process of planning for school construction is being removed from the political arena as much as possible and being put into a forum which will involve the Department of Education and school councils. This body will set priorities base on need.

This doesn't mean that the government won't respond to an Old Crow situation, where the school burns, or some other exceptional situation. Dawson, where the school population has gone from 175 to just over 300 since 1985, might yet prove to be such a case.

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Board Meeting Postponed

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Be it fate or sheer luck, a very localized fog at the Dawson airport prevented members of the Municipal Board from making their planned appearance in town on October 21 for a scheduled hearing on the future of West Dawson.

The town inherited this area when the Board altered its expansion request during the first year of the Ostashek government and Dawson has been trying to figure out how to deal with the unexpected largess ever since.

The outgoing council, after some fits and starts, decided to give back the revenue negative, high road maintenance, seasonally isolated west bank of the Yukon River lands to the YTG. Passing a bylaw to enact this change was one of the last things the council did before the election.

The Board has the final say, however, and does nothing without public meetings the first of which was scheduled for October 21 in spite of warnings that the seasonal shutdown of the George Black Ferry would probably make it hard for anyone to attend the meeting.

At the turned out the meeting got cancelled, and city employees spent part of the afternoon scrambling to contact West Dawson residents, some of whom were known to have made their own flight plans - a helicopter shuttle, no less - so as to able to attend the meeting and voice their approval of the plan to sever ties with Dawson proper.

Mayor Glen Everitt said Tuesday night that the cancellation was probably for the best. He says the City has recommended a December rescheduling to allow for the best chance that the ice bridge will be in and functioning by then.

He doesn't think that there was any deliberate intention to inconvenience the West Dawson public, but that planners in Whitehorse just didn't think through all the seasonal implications of living here.

On the other hand, he was quick to note that the meeting problem wouldn't exist if there were a bridge, and that a relocated airport might have solved the Board's flying problems.

Councillor-elect Aedes Scheer, who raised a complaint about the timing of the meeting after receiving a number of complaints from residents, indicated that she was very pleased that the meeting did not happen.

"If it'll work in December, then fine." No timing is ever perfect, she added, but this one was especially bad.

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Family Conferencing Meeting Slated for October 30

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Is Family Group Conferencing coming to Dawson City? The answer to that question might be a little closer after a meeting planned for October 30th. Interested community members will meet at the Downtown Hotel Conference Room at 7:00 p.m. for an evening devoted to the subject.

Project organizer and volunteer Cheryl Laing has been making the rounds of the community with basic information and a promotional video called "Real Justice". This 17 minute production on the origins and theory of Family Group Conferencing will be shown at the beginning of the meeting to focus the discussion.

At 7:30 the public meeting will begin, with a number of special guests in place to address aspects of the issue. These include:

So far a number of groups in the community, including the Robert Service School, the RSS Council, the Dawson City Council and the interagency group have expressed interest in this concept.

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Commentary: Flushed with Success

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

There are so many ways to be flushed. You can be flushed with anger, shame, or excitement, depending on the occasion.

For some time now environmentally concerned government types have been flushed with anger as they view the sewage discharge situation in Dawson, so much so that they tend to become a bit unreasonable in proposing how we should deal with it.

No question, primary sewage treatment doesn't do much more than strain out the lumps and it really doesn't do anything to reclaim the waste or use it for other purposes. Never mind that very few places sharing Dawson's size and isolation do much better. We are high profile and sitting on a traditional salmon river.

While what we do here has far less impact on the annual run than the fishing that takes place before the poor creatures ever fulfill their suicidal procreational urges in our creeks, we are a stationary target when it comes to worrying about habitat. At the rate things are going we will some day have the most pristine breeding grounds on the planet, but no fish will ever get here because of what's going on downstream.

Ah well, we still must clean up our act. Another type of flushing must be made safe for the wilderness.

It's not terribly likely that we'll be able to do as much about it as we would like to. Our bills for the system we are stuck with are already out of sight. Neither our local government nor the next level have anything like the type of money it would take to build and maintain the mechanical system needed to do the job. I'm sure we'd rather use the cheaper route of a lagoon and let nature take its course with our refuse, but there doesn't seem to be any place to put such a thing here in the valley.

Amazing that such a big place can be so small, but that's how it goes when you're trying to dispose of any kind of waste. It took us ten years to find a replacement for the dump on the Dome, and that task was far less complex than this.

Bearing all that in mind, our mayor city manager and works superintendent trotted off to Ottawa over the summer to try and inject a little reality into these discussions. They came back flushed with hope. No one said we didn't still need to pursue the matter to its conclusion (I hope you appreciate all the subtle puns in this article) but they did concur that it was murky matter which required more analysis. Our lads got the clear impression that they could put the subject on hold for awhile until the mandarins with whom they had met had time to generate a few memos (what passes for thought in some circles).

Meantime the folks at DIAND in the Yukon had been busy deciding how Dawson could be made to look bad. Over the summer the City was required to put up signs along the waterfront indicating that the area was unsafe - toxic was the clear implication. Our crews posted the signs and circulated the necessary warnings. Talk about flushed with embarrassment.

Now it turns out we didn't need to. The environmental experts from YTG have given the waterfront a clean bill of health and advised the City that the signs can come down. In fact, we have been told, they should never have gone up. The waterfront is not toxic - you could swim in it if it wasn't rapidly being covered with slush and ice - and DIAND never had any business saying that it was.

Now we are flushed with annoyance. Was all this maneuvering done just to make us look worse than we actually are during the water board hearings? Why would a federal department issue instructions where there was no need and no jurisdiction? How much money did we waste reacting in good faith to a non-problem?

Of course, none of the good faith we showed then means anything when it comes to issuing press releases, which DIAND did last month. They're complaining now that we've put our secondary sewage treatment plans on hold and making threats about court action and other wonderful things. Our folks says they were told to wait until they heard from Ottawa before they did anything else. Maybe the upper levels of the department just don't communicate with the regional troops?

All we know is that there are some people out there who don't like anything we do. We offered increased water flow and wider dispersion as intermediate measures between now and something better and that was refused with the line that "dilution is no solution." It's not my understanding that we said it was, but it would help. Well, actually, it has helped already.

You see, we added the north end of Dawson to the water system last year and it came on line this summer. Summer is the time when we don't pass our water tests, when the bleeders are off, the water flow is down, and the summer residents add to the overall load. This summer, we're doing better than normal. We've actually passed water tests that we used to fail and have passed them more frequently this year than in the past.

In a small way, you might say we're flushed with success. We can do better, but it's a beginning.

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Dawson First Nation Begins Building Projects for the Winter

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

It's been a long year since the Chief Isaac Building went down in flames last fall. At the time the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation went through a brief period of indecision about what to do next. The first impulse was to rebuild quickly because there were so many programs that needed places to run from.

Sober second thought produced a different plan, a different site and a different time line. The new administration building will be constructed to replace the two that were destroyed in the fire, but will be on the lots to the north of the surviving Tr'ondek Heritage Centre rather than on the old Chief Isaac Site.

Despite rumours about the site of three fires being cursed, John Mitchell of Han Construction says that the old location was simply too small to accommodate the new building, and so they figured it would make a better parking lot.

The new building will be be 14,900 square feet on two floors and should cost something like $2.2 million to erect. At the time of this interview the plans were about 95% complete, but work had already begun on the foundation, which went down a considerable distance to hit bedrock. The backfill for this part of the project was 7300 cubic yards.

This will be a formal, institutional type building, taking its architectural direction from the anchor buildings which form the Dawson look, the Old Post Office, the Old Territorial Administration Building and the Old Court House. Mitchell says it will most resemble the latter.

The building will serve two purposes. First it will house all the Tr'ondek Hwech'in offices that are currently in the Old YTG building on Third Avenue. Secondly it will serve as a rental property for businesses in the community, as did the old Han complex. Federal Forestry, the Mining Recorders Office and Klondike Outreach are already slated to move in when its available next summer.

One feature of the second floor will be a restaurant development with what Mitchell says will certainly be the best view of the river in town. Of course it will have an outdoor balcony for the summer months.

Access to the second floor will be by elevator as well as by stairs. The building will connect to the land claims offices above the hall via a second floor walk-way which will not be visible from Front Street, as it will have a facade reaching all the way to the ground. That will be the only junction between the two buildings, though, as the first nation wants to avoid the kind of linkages which led to the destruction of the former office/rental space.

"Fire protection is a paramount concern," Mitchell said.

This project, along with the already framed cultural centre across the street by the dyke, will be under construction all winter and it is intended that both buildings will be ready for use in the summer of 1998.

After several years of lean pickings, this will help create a good winter season for construction in Dawson.

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River of Gold

by Palma Berger
Sun Scribe


Volunteers at the Dawson City Music Festival spent Thansksgiving weekend putting a new roof on their recycled office building. Photo by Dan Davidson.

River of Gold is the name suggested to call the river trip planned to honour the twentieth anniversary of the Dawson City Music Festival. It just happens to coincide with the Centennial of the Gold Rush, and both of these Anniversaries are next year.

The Dawson City Music Festival is planning to bring about twenty of the past performers up to Dawson by boats. Beginning in Whitehorse with a kick-off concert, then by boat to Carmacks where there wil be another concert - FREE - and then by boat to Minto where another free concert is in the planning stages. Then onto Dawson City where they will arrive on the Thursday.

The Unitech crew will meet them in both Carmacks and Minto to assist in the productions there. Josee of the famed Chocolate Claim in Whitehorse has volunteered to be the cook for the trip. The entertainers and assistants will be travelling in three boats but it is anticipated that accompanying them there will be a flotilla of other boats who are also making their destination the Dawson City Music Festival.

The Dawson City Music Festival will not be hiring a lot of new talent for next year's concert, but have sent out invitations to a selection of performers from past Festivals. To date Bill Bourne and Ian Tamblyn are among those who have said YES.

This will be not only a reunion year for past performers, but will also bring together past Festival Board members. Wendy Burns is heading the committee planning the re-union of past members, some of whom have gone really far afield as in Val Faminoff who now resides in Switzerland. The committee asks if anyone out there has current addresses for any past members - please call or fax the office with the information to make the contacting a little easier.

The events begin with the concerts in Whitehorse on Friday July 10th, and in Carmacks on the Sunday. A concert in the Palace Grand Theatre is planned on the Tuesday night. This concert has its own special entertainers, and will have its own price of admission.

In Dawson on the Wednesday Dawson City Music Festival is planning a free concert for the whole town.

Events in the Park will start on Thursday, one of which will be a special event for the Board Members Reunion. An afternoon concert for the family is planned for maybe Wednesday and Thursday, but not at the Park. This is for the children of Dawson and for the children of tourists and visitors generally.

They have a couple of fabulous children's entertainers such as Al Simmons lined up.

Gail Calder, President of the Music Festival assures everyone that there will NOT be a full blown party at the park all week but as noted events will be occurring in other venues..

Because the trek for the musicians will be on the river that brought so many gold seekers and involved so many settlements along the way, the Festival is applying for funding for the river trip from the Anniversaries Commission.

Every year one hears the burnt out volunteers sighing "too much", 'never again', but the memories are too good and before the end of the year they are once again into the organising of the next year's festival. That is why they invite one and all to attend their A.G.M. on Nov. 27th at 7:30 p.m. with the location to be announced. For the big plans next year they will need a 'ton of help'. They must be a great group because they have been in operation for twenty years. Oh, yes. if you cannot make it to the A.G.M. the President happened to mention that their phone number is 9935584, and their fax is 9935510 and their Post Office Box # is 456, DAWSON CITY.

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