Dawson City, Yukon Friday, September 12, 2003

The Valkyrie, complete with dragon's head prow and a Viking helmet on the stern. The crew: Codah, Reed Birnie, Anne and Nathan Collie, Adam Johnson, Bob Birnie. Missing is Gregg Pelhan, who had to grab a bus in order to make a deadline in the south. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

The Ride of the Valkyrie
The Rabbits Take the Patch
Greet & Meet between Tr'ondek Hwech'in and School Staff
Sign of the Raven Business Profile
Jack London and the Burian Connection
KPMA Elects New President and Appoints Executive Director
Grade 3 Visits the Cultural Centre
Library News: Berton House Welcomes Mark Zuehkle
7th Annual Klondike Classic Open Horse Show
KPMA Announces Recipients of Indian River Scholarship for 2003
Editorial: Trying to Correct the Readers Digest

Welcome to the September 12, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the photographs and articles from the September 9 hard copy edition.

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 in late March 2003, logged about 51,000. The current counter went online in April 2003 and was sitting at 11,441 on September 10, 2003.

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The Sun would like to thank the following readers for their donations: Jane M. Lund, Erik Knoph, Wayne Rachel (Callison Waste Management), Laura Massey (and to Laura for her encouraging words... "Hang in there - you remain some of the best journalism around.") Note to Torfinn D: We don't have your land address. We'd love to send you a tax receipt for your contribution, but we can't do that without it.

The Ride of the Valkyrie

by Dan Davidson

The Vikings are coming! Ten or eleven centuries ago that cry was a signal to run and hide, but the arrival of a Viking style longboat in Dawson on the evening of September 3 was greeted with hardly any notice at all, It really wasn't until the next day, when the Valkyrie was out of the water and getting ready to head up the highway to Whitehorse, that people took notice of her. After that, there was a constant stream of the curious to the parking lot beside the Visitor Reception Centre on Front Street.

The Valkyrie's ride was actually the culmination of a 19 year old dream for Bob Birnie (78) and his son, Reed, who had begun this trip many years before in a Zodiac and an Avon on the mistaken assumption that one could do a camping river trip from Whitehorse to Dawson in 5 days. At the end of that time they and their companions ended up in Carmacks and ran out of time.

Since then Bob, a member of the Los Angeles branch of the Adventurers Club (which includes astronaut Gordon Cooper among its members), and Reed, now residing in Franklin, Tennessee, have travelled many rivers. In one memorable trip, Bob traversed the Grand Canyon, while Reed has been back in the Yukon and on the Peel. But they never got to finish the trip to Dawson.

About four months ago Reed got inspired to revive a long dormant interest in the Vikings. A woodworker, he decided to build a longboat. When he started to think about where he would sail it, that aborted trip to Dawson City came to mind.

"My son's been dreaming about this for years," Bob said. "He's the one who came up with this design and this boat. He called me up and said, 'Hey, do you want to go on a river trip?'

"I said, 'Yeah. Where?' He said it would be the Yukon and I said, 'Oh yeah, we're gonna complete that trip that we started 19 years ago.'"

For Reed it was a chance to build something different and a chance to do a river trip in a really big boat. He's always felt a bit cramped by canoes and zodiacs.

"I've always been fascinated by the Vikings. So I started studying up on books, looked at designs, drew one up of my own and went to work." The basic material was spruce and white pine, though he did fiberglass the seams. The seats were boxes such as the Vikings had used for both rowing benches and personal storage. One deviation from the traditional pattern was that he put a floor in the boat and stored things under it.

So the Valkyrie was built, tested and towed 4,000 miles, to be launched into Lake Laberge in the middle of August. It took the seven of them 20 days to make the trip, camping and hunting along the way.

Aside from the Birnies, père et fils, the crew included Anne Collie (Reed's fiancée); her son, Nathan; his high school chum, Adam Johnson; a friend named Greg Pelhan; and as mascot, 11 year old Codah, who travelled the Yukon as a puppy, but now had to be helped in and out of the boat.

For Bob part of the joy of the trip was in planning the presentation he will make to the Adventurer's Club later in the year. Anne busied herself with a set of field sketches which will later become completed paintings, as well as video taping the trip as an accompaniment to Bob's lecture.

For Anne and Reed, this was sort of a pre-wedding honeymoon. For the boys, it was a graduation trip.

One of the outstanding stops they made along the way was at the Normandy's Ancient Voices camp, just up stream from Dawson, where they feasted on wild game and had the pleasure of hunting grouse. Reed hunts with a bow and arrow. They also caught a large salmon along the way and managed several meals from it.

The square sailed longboat caught the breeze well, but the crew also had to paddle sometimes, and actually broke a few of the oars along the trip. Reed did a bit of quick carpentry to repair the breaks, lashing them back together with something the Vikings could have used, duct tape.

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The Rabbits Take the Patch

by Dan Davidson


The rabbits hit the road - but not too hard. Photo by Dan Davidson

"Nothing deters you lot. This is what I love about you. You just get on and so things." So said the English lady tourist whose name got lost when the ink ran in this reporter's notebook. She was talking about the 26th Annual International Outhouse Race, held here on August 31, in which, for a complete change of pace, one team took all the prizes. Of course, there was only one team this year, a far cry from last year's five teams, or the dozen or more that used to pace the streets of Dawson in search of excremental glory. The race actually came within a pinch of being cancelled, according to organizer Harmony Hunter, but the members of the winning entry, the Never Ready Rabbits (motto: "26 years and still going"), weren't having any of that.

"You bet we weren't," said Mary Fitton, the team leader. "I had to come all the way from Whitehorse to do this." Besides, a scratch at this point would ruin her scrapbooks, which contain photos of every race since 1977. So the starter, Bill Holmes, called for the chant, and the bunnies, garbed in their waterproof coveralls, floppy ears, bushy tales and slowly sagging cardboard drums, took the field. "We're the rascally rabbits! "You can tell by our habits! "Boing! Boing! Boing! "We just keep going! "Nah, nah, nah, nah naah ..."

And they set a team record for themselves, completing the course and the 11 scavenger hunt stations in just one hour and twenty-one minutes. Admittedly last year's winners did it in eleven, but you've never seen these veterans "race" before, and last year it took them two and half hours.

Lots of people - probably about 100 - did turn out to see the race. The square around Diamond Tooth Gerties was lined with rain slickers and umbrellas, and once it was clear what the pace was going to be, many people set off to other parts of the route so as to cheer the team on as it hopped, limped and sometimes staggered by.

"It was great," Fitton said later. "People were out watching."

"There were lots of people around town enjoyed this," chimed in Sue Herrmann. She. along with Harry Waldren, Brian and Sandra Harris and the two unidentified cheerleaders who led the charge around town, picked up $100 for fastest team and $100 for best outhouse. Each team member got a book related to the theme of the race as well as a free Gertie's pass

They also got Special mention for being "Crazy Enough to Come Out Today".

It seems like short staffing at the and of the season combined with the weather to attack the race this year. None of the hotels or campgrounds sponsored a team, not did Parks Canada or the Palace Grand crew. There wasn't even a AAA entry.

Usually there are several groups who decide to have a lark at the last minute, borrow an outhouse frame from the Klondike Visitors Association and let their imaginations go wild. Saturday's rain and the forecast for Sunday put paid to any last minute inspiration and caused two of the entries to drop out.

One was the team of dancers from Diamond Tooth Gerties, which took this race last year dressed as Austin Power's girls. But it was dry then, and two days of rain had left the streets in no running condition for a troupe of dancers with several weeks yet to go on their season.

"Oh well," as Mary Fitton said while vowing to return again next year. "it's the rain."

As for our anonymous English tourist, she summed up the afternoon quite well: "It's good fun. The crowd. The atmosphere. It's just hilarious!"

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Greet & Meet between Tr'ondek Hwech'in and School Staff

Submitted by Cathie Findlay-Brook
Education Coordinator, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in


School staff meet with TH Chief Darren Taylor. Photo by Dan Davidson

It was busier than usual at the offices of Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in on Wednesday as 26 teaching & support staff from Robert Service School toured the hallways and offices of the government buildings.

Following a warm welcome and opening prayer led by Deputy Chief Clara VanBibber, school staff were treated to a hands - on tour with each department giving a presentation of the services and programs offered by the First Nation Government. For many it was a first time visit to the buildings and quite an eye opener to the full range of services provided by the government to its citizens.

In his welcoming address Chief Darren Taylor acknowledged the progress that had been made with the school administration to address T.H. concerns and also the vital partnership the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and teaching staff must nurture in order to provide the best education to all children in Dawson City. He then went on to invite staff to make use of Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in services and resources to aid teachers in delivering locally relevant educational material.

Teaching staff held their first ever staff meeting in the Lands Conference Hall of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, with plans to hold a staff meeting there once or twice a year. A reception of traditional bannock, tea & salmon followed at the Danoja Zho Cultural Center where Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in staff and teachers mingled freely and enjoyed the exhibits at their leisure.

The gathering was to increase awareness of the exciting and readily accessible resources available to teachers to help deliver First Nations content, with particular emphasis on Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, into the classroom.

Three major departments are especially relevant to the school. Lands & Resources have much to offer with their mapping, GIS technology, stewardship and Fish & Wildlife programs. Health & Social Programs can enhance the school curriculum with locally relevant health matters and in connecting elders with youth. Heritage and Culture offers a wide range of services including heritage programming, archives & library, research assistances, language workshops, and setting up field trips to Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites. The cultural center offers exhibits, a theatre and guided hands-on activities for kids of all ages.

Opportunities to enhance school programs with local First Nations content are endless. By encouraging teachers to connect with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in it is hoped that the resulting locally developed and culturally enhanced programs will promote the best education possible and make all our children's lives that much richer. Mähsi Cho.

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Sign of the Raven Business Profile

by Anne Tyrrell


Shirley Pennell's fabric art hangs on the walls of her boutique. Photo by Anne Tyrrell

Viewing art in a log cabin epitomizes the Dawson experience. When walking into Shirley Pennell's house/workshop you are welcomed into a warm and inviting home based business. Sign of the Raven is in a beautiful log home on 21 Pierre Berton Crescent, on the road up to the midnight sun dome.

Shirley has a Masters Degree in Educational Administration. "I do not have an art degree but I have many art courses, both college and university courses, that I have taken through my 37 years of teaching." Most of her art courses were in the area of children's art, then later in life, watercolors and figure drawing which she then applied to teaching

When Shirley contemplated retiring 2 years ago she wanted to go back to study water colors at art school. She found out from the registrar of another school in Victoria that Metchosin Summer School of the Arts on Vancouver Island might suit her needs.

"I was all excited this is what I was going to do," said Shirley. "On the next page (of the school's brochure) Barbara Shelley was giving a course on painting with threads and drawing with treads. It was instantaneous it was what I wanted to do." She also took a course where the sewing machine was used as your drawing tool.

To further her education Shirley went down to Tahoe, California for a week's course with Helda Newman, who is a material embellisher. Helda taught the class how to use pencil crayons, Javex, folding methods, fabric markers, acrylic paints, and watercolor crayons to embellish the materials. Also shown were different techniques of how to manipulate the materials using these different mediums.

"I could hardly wait to come back and apply that to the subject matter at that time I wasn't sure what subject matter. I turned to my photographs and it ended up being flowers," mentioned Shirley. "I use dyes as well which is where my love for watercolors comes in. I dye my backgrounds and in the process of dying I will sometimes paint scenes and then on top of that I lay my fabrics and threads"

Shirley's most popular work is Martha Black's garden and the fireweed fabric art. She has branched (excuse the pun) out into making clothing, she also carries pottery and art cards all of which has a northern theme to it.

Sign of the Raven is open 10:00 am Monday to Saturday till 5:00 pm and if people want to come on the evening or Sunday by chance or appointment.

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Jack London and the Burian Connection

by Palma Berger


The photo shows the group from Oakland and Dawson. Back Row: Jack Williamson (cinematographer), Sgt. Ralph Godfrey (handwriting expert), John Semple (Dawson City), Dick North, Eddie Albert (film star and supporter), Joe Henry (Dawson City), Russ Kingman (arranger of finances). Front Row: Rudy Burian (Stewart Island) and Robin Burian (Stewart Island). Photo by Fred Reiker

A chat with Yvonne Burian brought out again the connection between the Burian family and Jack London's cabin and Dick North.

It was in 1964 when the Burians were down at Kirkman Creek tending their garden that a canoe, swept along by a strong current came into view. The lone canoeist jumped out into the water to ensure he could pull himself and the canoe up on the bank on the other side. The occupant spotting them, called out "How do you get over to there?". They pointed out the fallen log further up and very soon the canoeist joined them. The canoeist was Dick North.

He stayed while. At one stage the conversation got around to Jack London's story 'To Build a Fire'. From there they got onto discussing Jack London's cabin. 'Certainly, we know where it is." The Burians told him.

Yvonne Burian explained that the cabin on Henderson Creek was really built and lived in by Albert ("Shorty") Donner, years before Jack London moved in. After that it was always used as a trapper's cabin.

The Burians told North not to palm off any old cabin as the Jack London cabin as there was proof that the cabin on Henderson Creek was really Jack London's. Jack London had written his name and date on a log at the back. When Jack McKenzie was trapping there he chopped out the signature area as a slab to preserve it should the cabin go the way of all old cabins and cave in. This ended up in the safe keeping of Rose Wood of Mayo.

North's interest was piqued.

The next year North, accompanied by Joe Henry and his son Victor, travelled by dog team to the Burian's home on the Stewart River, as arranged. From there, led by Robin Burian and his four dog team they set forth eventually getting to the cabin.

North spent the next five years verifying that the cabin and the signature were authentic. He also drummed up support for the idea of setting one half the cabin in Dawson City and the other half in Oakland, California.

This culminated in a large group setting forth with three dog teams led by Robin Burian, Rudy Burian and Victor Henry five years later, in the quest to save the cabin. Within a month the cabin was moved to Stewart Island by the Burians where they built two identical structures using some of the original logs for each.

Robin Burian, Joe Henry and Dick North accompanied the second cabin to Oakland.

A far more interesting account of the locating of, journey to, and the moving of the cabin is in Dick North's booklet, "Jack London's Cabin". Jack London Series Vol 1.

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KPMA Elects New President and Appoints Executive Director

At the Klondike Placer Miners' Association (KPMA) Annual General Meeting in Dawson City, August 29, Mr. Mike McDougall, became the new President of the KPMA and is joined by 4 new Directors. The new Board also appointed its popular outgoing president, Tara Christie, M.A.Sc, to the full-time position of Executive Director. Incoming president Mike McDougall said the move reflects the priority the KPMA attaches to resolving its issues with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) over last December's elimination of the Yukon Placer Authorization (YPA).

"Tara has been a tireless crusader for the protection of a viable placer mining industry in the Yukon since Minister Thibault dropped his bombshell almost nine months ago," said McDougall. "She has built alliances in Ottawa, earned the respect of the Fisheries Minister and his staff, worked to strengthen our relationships with First Nations, and coalesced our supporters throughout the Territory. The Association felt that Tara could be even more effective in seeing this struggle through if we gave her a mandate to devote all her energies to it."

McDougall – who, with the new board of directors, will oversee the association's day-to-day affairs – is no stranger to the KPMA, having served as its president from 1996 to 1999. He was also instrumental in bringing about the YPA and believed that the industry was in good shape when he left mining, after 17 years, for a retail venture. Deeply committed to placer mining as a key economic driver in the Yukon, McDougall recently sold his business to return to the KPMA presidency and mining. McDougall, his wife Kim and their 2 children will be moving to Whitehorse in September. He said he felt compelled to come back and do his part to help solve one of the biggest crises in the history of Yukon placer mining. "When I think of all the hard work that went into creating the YPA, it's such a shame to see it unravel and to have to start from scratch again – for no good reason, as far as I can tell. But I'm totally confident that our new board is up to the task ahead, especially supported by an Executive Director with Tara's track record," he said.

Christie, who was named Miner of the Year at the KPMA's annual barbecue last month in recognition of her service to the industry, said she is pleased to step into the role of Executive Director. "Not only will this allow me to focus more of my attention on resolving the uncertainty our industry faces as a result of the elimination of the YPA, it will also increase the KPMA's overall bench strength. Mike brings experience, a good mind for policy and strategic issues, and a strong voice to the president's post. We work well together and both of us will be able to do our jobs more effectively by backing each other up."

Christie will remain the KPMA's representative on the Implementation Steering Committee (ISC), struck by Fisheries Minister Thibault to define a new regulatory regime to replace the YPA. The committee includes industry, the Yukon Territorial Government, the Council of Yukon First Nations, and DFO. Minister Thibault has set a deadline of April, 2004 for the ISC to submit an implementation plan, a deadline that Christie says the committee will be challenged to meet at its current rate of progress. After his initial announcement of stringent new regulations last December and the outcry in the Yukon that greeted them, the Minister promised flexibility in defining and

implementing a new regime. He insists that the YPA will be gone by 2007 but has agreed that miners can operate under it at least through 2004. Meanwhile, the ISC is expected to come up with a new regime that will protect fisheries and preserve a viable mining industry.

Both Christie and McDougall reminded KPMA members that the task of defining a regime that will be acceptable to DFO and the industry is a daunting one. "The struggle to get this far has been expensive for the KPMA. We have to build a persuasive case for our industry at the ISC table," said McDougall. "Every miner in the Territory needs to throw their support behind this effort."

The Association received a boost last week with the release of a study conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) that showed fully 96 per cent of Yukon small businesses oppose DFO's elimination of the YPA. Eighty-eight per cent of those surveyed believe the decision will have a negative impact on their businesses and 98 per cent believe it will negatively affect the Yukon's economy. Nearly a third indicated that 25 per cent or more of their business is directly linked to the placer mining industry.

As well, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce has put forward a motion for debate at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM in mid-September, calling for the federal government to direct the Auditor General's Office to conduct a Performance Audit of DFO that addresses the agency's accountability and compliance with its mandate and service commitments. The KPMA is urging industry and resource associations to contact their local Chambers to ask them to support the motion.

With Christie in the Executive Director's chair and McDougall at the helm as president, the KPMA is also supported by a new slate of Directors. They are: Joel White (Vice-President), Martin Knutson, Jayce Murtagh and Wendy Fellers. Directors with a remaining year in their term are: Lisa Favron (Secretary/ Treasurer), Dave McBurney, Al Rudis and Frank Hawker.

"We've got a great team going forward," McDougall said, "We feel invigorated and ready to redouble our commitment and efforts to restore certainty to our industry. We're calling for the support of every miner in the Yukon and everyone who wants to see the responsible management of this Territory's environmental and economic resources. If you want to know what you can do to help, contact Tara, myself, or any director on the KPMA board."

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Grade 3 Visits the Cultural Centre

by Glenda Bolt


Grade 3 class visiting the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre. Photo by Glenda Bolt

Mrs. Dragomen and the grade 3 class of Robert Service School made a visit to Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre as part of their Aboriginal Peoples studies. The class was split into four hunting parties and sent into the Hammerstone Gallery to discover the secret life of tools and objects made from natural materials collected on the land. The visit concluded with each student helping to build a brush shelter out on the lawn and a chance to wrap up (and run around) in the caribou skin rugs.

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Library News: Berton House Welcomes Mark Zuehkle

by Anne Saunders


Mark Zuehlke

A warm welcome goes to our latest Berton-House-Writer-in-residence, Mark Zuehlke. Mark will be having a reading on September 23, 7:30 pm at the Library. Mark is the author of a number of history books and mystery novels, as well as The Yukon Fact Book.

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7th Annual Klondike Classic Open Horse Show

by Sylvie Gammie


Julia Fellers takes a jump. Photo by Sylvie Gammie

The 7th Annual Dawson City Klondike Classic Open Horse show was recently hosted by the Klondike Horseman's Association and the Bits n' Bridles Horse 4-H Club. The show was held on August 23 & 24, at the brand new Top of the World Equestrian Center in Sunnydale, just across from the golf course. Horses and riders came from all over the Yukon to participate in this year's event.

The weather mostly co-operated on both days once again, and the rain held off until the end of the show. We were very pleased to have Marion Szepat-Tait, of Abbotsford, B.C., as our judge for the weekend. Marion was also able to spend a few extra days in Dawson City, teaching lessons to some of the weekend's riders, and enjoying some of the sites and activities.

Riders of all ages and skill levels competed in several different disciplines during the two-day event. Saturday morning began with Dressage and English flat classes, and continued into the afternoon with several jumping classes, ranging from the Walk Trot Equitation Over Poles, for beginner riders, to the Open Hunter Class, with jumps not exceeding 3 feet in height. Lots of spectators came out for the Musical Freestyle Extravaganza on Saturday evening. In this most entertaining competition, riders choreograph their own riding routine, complete with appropriate costumes and props, and set it to their favorite music. Definitely a highlight of the weekend!

Sunday morning began with Halter and Showmanship, followed by Western classes. Several riders also tested their skill on the trail course, taking their horse through a gate, over a bridge, around barrels, over poles, etc. Gymkhana events followed on the Sunday afternoon, with barrel racing, keyhole and stake races, and the ever-popular adult whisky race (very close, but won once again by Julia Fellers).

Top honours for the weekend went to:
Walk/Trot Hi-Point: Stefanie Cayen (Dawson); Reserve: Loralee Johnstone (Mayo); Novice Hi-Point: Amber Elliott (Burwash Landing); Reserve: Kristin Witham (Whse); Pee Wee Hi-Point: Eve Derry (Dawson); Reserve: Brooke Nielsen (Whse); Junior Hi-Point: Caitlin Gammie (Dawson); Reserve: Kaitlyn Sylvester (Whse); Senior Hi-Point: Julia Fellers (Dawson); Reserve: Sandra Prosko (Whse)

All youth participating in the show were placed in groups of three for a Youth Team Award. The highest-ranking team was made up of Cassy Andrew, Brooke Nielsen, and Caitlin Gammie. Well done!

The Klondike Horseman's Association and the Bits n' Bridles Horse 4-H Club would like to extend huge thanks to everyone who supported us in this year's show. See our ad listing all our sponsors – thank you! You were all so generous, and this event could not happen without you! Many thanks are also extended to our numerous volunteers and helping hands – you are also an important part of our show, and your help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks to Lotteries Yukon as well, for their generous grant, which enabled us to purchase many necessary supplies in our new venue.

See you next year!

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KPMA Announces Recipients of Indian River Scholarship for 2003

September 3, 2003: Dawson City, Yukon Territory: The Klondike Placer Miners' Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2003 Indian River Scholarship Tom Claxton, and Byron Klippert.

Tom Claxton, son of Leslie Chapman and Bill Claxton of 40 Mile Placers in Dawson City receives $800.00 and Byron Klippert, son of Kim and Cheryl Klippert, of Stephron Resources in Mayo receives $500.00. Both are entering their first year of postsecondary education.

Both of the recipients have admirable qualities, and have proven themselves to be excellent academic students in the high school years. Tom will be attending college on Vancouver Island this term, and Byron is pursuing his studies in Alberta. We are sure they will both make their parents proud.

The KPMA Board of Directors is proud of their achievements, and wishes them well in achieving their future education goals. We congratulate both Tom and Byron, and their families.

The KPMA Indian River Scholarship Fund was established in 1990 by placer miners Ruth and Pete Risby then mining on the Indian River. The fund was generated through the sale of commissioned artwork. Originally $10,000.00 was raised and invested. The fund was created to promote and assist the continuing education for KPMA members, and their families.

Over the years annual scholarships were awarded through the KPMA Board of Directors. The Yukon Foundation has administered the Indian River Scholarship Fund since 1999.

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Editorial: Trying to Correct the Readers Digest

by Dan Davidson

People from afar are interested in the doings in our little town, and I often get mail through the web related to the online edition of the Klondike Sun. Not long after I returned from holidays, the following arrived from Dr. Jim McElgunn in Grand Prairie, Alberta.

"I hope you take note of the recent mention of DC in "that's outrage" section. I know you are putting in the state of the art sewage treatment plant for ?? million dollars. Guess they don't."

It turned out that the article in question was a one paragraph whack at us under the heading "Waste Not" (p. 75, Sept. 2003). They quoted a piece from Canadian Geographic linking us as polluters to Saint John's, Newfoundland, and Victoria in this piece and we got the same space they did. It said we have totally ignored a 10 year old government directive (our water licence) to clean up our act.

Former town councillor Aedes Scheer informs me that she saw the original Canadian Geographic piece when it appeared and fired off a batch of corrections, all to no avail.

Having spent a lot of time on this file myself since the mid-1990's, I sat down and wrote to the Digest.

"What a fascinating piece of misinformation you've printed with regard to Dawson City's sewage woes. Let me set you straight.

"The final projected bill for processing sewage for a town of 1300 people (400 more or so in the valley but not on the system) looks to be $17 million. The territorial government, which is obligated to cover 90% of this bill, has told our council that it won't do it.

"The federal government, one branch of which would like to force us to do this, won't help pay the cost. (This is spite of the fact that it recently pumped millions into the city of Halifax to help them build a screening plant, which will bring them up to the standard we already meet.) There's just no way we can raise the money and pay that bill with our tax base, to cure a discharge problem which, for a 24 hour period, is equal to 15 seconds worth of the glacial sludge, animal faeces and natural sediments already in the Yukon River.

"Far from ignoring the government directive - which is not ten years old, more like 6 - we have been trying to meet it. We have already spent over $1 million on this project, trying to find ways to make it work for an affordable amount. We have selected a sequencing batch reactor plant, checked the science, tried very hard to clean up our act.

"The Sierra Club Legal Defence Fund likes to list us as a top ten offender, right along with communities hundreds and thousands of times our size. Our name has a high profile.

"Anyone who has ever seen the Yukon River near Dawson, would never call it "pristine", but that's the word that turns up in nearly every one of their releases on this issue. It's really not fair. We've tried. We just can't do it. "

My reply arrived this week, a form letter thanking me for my interest in the magazine. They're about to inaugurate a "letters to the editor" section in the magazine. What do you bet mine won't be in it?

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