June 1st marks the month long journey of four boat builders and their assistants who will build a birch bark canoe, a spruce dugout canoe, a moose skin boat and a seal skin qayaq on the Whitehorse waterfront at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre. Indigenous artists will adorn and paint the boats during the AdÃka Cultural Festival from June 30 to July 6, followed by a feast and ceremonial launch.

Over many millennia, northern peoples used the natural resources of their rugged homeland to sustain their lives. In this vast land of long winters and short summers, travel was a necessity. People built watercraft to travel and hunt on the ocean, to cross fast flowing rivers, to set fishnets in lakes, and to carry food and families. They were ingenious and industrious in finding materials, experimenting with designs and honing their skills to build efficient, elegant watercraft.

YFNCT President Shirlee Frost is very excited about the project: “These four watercraft are symbolic of the faith that sustained our people through tough times. Elders and young people have been and are resilient and resourceful. Like the watercraft of past times we carried our cultures forward to this new day – a time of great pride and celebration for us as Indigenous peoples.”

The four types of boats being built for this project addressed the needs of people in different northern environments. Visitors will learn about the landscapes and lifestyles of Yukon Athapaskan and Inland Tlingit people, and the Inuvialuit of the Arctic. The builders will explain the materials, tools and techniques they use. Elders will share stories about travel and life with the boats in times past. The site will vibrate with the fresh aroma of wood shavings, the echo of adze and axe, the soft feel of moose hide and sealskin, and the cadence of northern Indigenous languages.

The builders anticipate long days and hard work to complete their boats. They look forward to sharing their experiences with visitors, knowing they are reviving significant cultural treasures.

The KDCC Cultural Programs Coordinator Krista Reid says: “We are absolutely thrilled to partner in the watercraft project with YFNCT. We see this as an incredible opportunity to engage the community and visitors with the amazing Cultural programming and workshops that will be offered on site at the Cultural Centre. KDCC welcomes thousands of visitors throughout the year and we are grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of the sharing and connections that are sure to be made for the duration of the project.”

It is in this spirit that YFNCT joins with other Canadians – young and old, new arrivals and long time settlers, to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Like the traditional boats of northern people, Dan Kwanje ‘Ã-Naan: Voices Across the Water carries messages for all of us and for people around the world. We have only to listen, to learn and to share in this time of reconciliation – moving forward safely together into the waters of tomorrow.

Everyone is invited to participate in this exciting boat building project:

  • Watch our boats take shape ~ boat builders and apprentices on site at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre from June 1 – 30
  • Listen to our stories ~ Elders and others will share stories about travel and life on the water in these boats from June 1 – July 6
  • Participate ~ in hands-on learning experiences in workshops, demonstrations and presentations from June 1 – July 6
  • Help us celebrate ~ at a ceremonial launch and feast for the four boats on July 6
  • See the boats in our communities ~ after the festival the four boats will move to their permanent homes:
    • Birch Bark Canoe – Nacho Nyak Dun Cultural Centre, Mayo
    • Spruce Dugout Canoe – “ Da Ku Cultural Centre, Haines Junction
    • Seal Skin Qayaq – Yukon Transportation Museum, Whitehorse
    • Moose Skin Boat – Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre, Teslin

YFNCT acknowledges the generous funding and support of:

  • Canada 150 Fund, Canadian Heritage
  • Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre
  • Canada Council for the Arts
  • Community Development Fund, Yukon Economic Development
  • Culture Quest
  • Parks Canada

For more information contact:

Alexis Hougen YFNCT Marketing Manager T: 867-667-7698, ext. 205 E: info@yfnct.ca

Anne Mease YFNCT Project Coordinator T: 867-667-7698, ext. 201 E: projects@yfnct.ca