EdgeYK August 2019

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August 2019

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CONTENTS

ISSUE 44

August 2019 - EDGENORTH.CA

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CONTRIBUTORS FRONT EDGE Meet the new editor, envision another gold rush, educate yourself on the past FOUND FOOD Refreshing Labrador Tea Summertime Soda Calvin Rossouw THOSE ‘70S STORIES A simpler time for gold heists and hijinks Glenn Smith ROSES ARE RED...OR, MAKE THAT GREEN A glimpse into the fleeting, trans-continental romance that led Elizabeth May and EDGE YK contributor John Kidder to the altar. Matthew Mallon

A FIERCE LOVE Tanya Snow’s mother would do battle against anyone to protect her young daughter from racism in Yellowknife. Now that little girl has grown up, and understands why. Tanya Snow

20 PADDLES OR PICKAXES?

We live in one of the world’s most thriving watersheds. But it remains under threat by the mining mistakes of the past. With major exploration projects spending $4 billion on winter drilling programs, another mining boom could be in YK’s future. Can the environment, mining and people forge a healthy future together? Tim Edwards

25 WORK IN PROGRESS

Tania Larsson: De-luxe Dene Designer Sarah Swan

29 BEHOLD THE FERAL CHILDREN

OF FOLK ON THE ROCKS From buying their own food to getting their first tattoo (henna, that is), being let loose at the annual summer festival is a rite of passage for YK kids Michele Culhane

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39 OLD TOWN VERSIFIER

Why I don’t eat spaghetti Anthony Foliot

44 NWT ARTS ARTIST’S CORNER

Taking Care: Mary Louise Drygeese's stunning embroidery piece for the new hospital is full of craftsmanship, content, and care Sarah Swan

46 THE BATTLE OF THE BRUSHES Art Battle was born in New York City in 2001. Today it produces a global tournament with more than 200 events in Canada and the U.S. alone each year – including Yellowknife! Nicolas Servel

37 GAMBLE ON BUSINESS

Grassroots citizen developers Sam Gamble

Tales of an Old Town Versifier by Anthony Foliot Snowking

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CONTRIBUTORS

TANYA SNOW Tanya Snow is an Inuit throat singer, writer and a music lover living in Yellowknife. The federal Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls affects all the women in her family. In her story, A Fierce Love, on page 16, she reflects on and honours her mother for paving a road of safety and opportunity among the turmoils of the post-residential school era.

TIM EDWARDS Tim Edwards is a writer from Yellowknife, currently on sabbatical in the South. He's written and edited for Up Here Publishing Ltd., Northern News Services Ltd., The Walrus and EDGE YK over the past 10 years. He's seen both the territory's economic ups and downs from its capital, and the changing environment from the bush, and he's just as uneasy about the way forward as the rest of us. He writes about a possible new wave of gold mining and how that will impact the land and water in his story Paddles or Pickaxes on page 20.

COVER Slavey and a Maniac by Kristel Derkowski EDITOR Laurie Sarkadi editor@edgeyk.ca PUBLISHER Matthew Mallon mmallon@vergecomms.ca

KRISTEL DERKOWSKI Kristel Derkowski wrote a gonzo memoir called Six Million Trees, which documents a few years of tree planting in clearcuts across Canada. She studied architecture and welding, and drove across the country about eight times trying different things before she came to rest in Yellowknife. Lately she works as a freelance designer, making illustrations like the one on this issue's cover, which depicts the legendary monster Ol' Slavey emerging from the depths of Great Slave Lake.

PHOTOGRAPHER Angela Gzowski photo@agzowski.com DESIGNER Pamela Schoeman pschoeman@vergecomms.ca ADVERTISING Jeremy Bird advertising@edgenorth.ca FOUNDER Brent Reaney breaney@vergecomms.ca Not for resale. ©Copyright 2019 by:

All rights reserved. ISSN 1927-7016 (Print) ISSN 1927-7024 (Online)

info@vergecomms.ca (867) 445-8360 vergecomms.ca Box 2451, Station Main 5016, 47th Street Yellowknife, NT X1A 1M1

INCLUDING

Razelle Benally, Etienne Croteau, Michele Culhane, Anthony Foliot, Sam Gamble, Calvin Rossouw, Nicolas Servel, Glenn Smith, Sarah Swan and Kerry Wheler. Thank you! FOLLOW US ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM AND ISSUU! @edgenorth

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FRONT EDGE

Meet the new editor, envision another gold rush, educate yourself on the past THE FIRST ISSUE of EDGE YK was pumped out of our founder Brent Reaney’s Latham Island kitchen in the winter of 2011. It was cool, fresh, focused in an irreverent way on the aspects of our city that set it apart from other places in the world; not so much the weather, but the people. So when Brent invited me on as managing editor, and then editor – a part-time position that enabled me to finish the book I’d been working on for what seemed like forever – I jumped at the chance. Now on this, our 44th issue, it’s time for me to leave my post.

I’m heading back to my hometown of Guelph, Ontario, to do a Masters degree in English. My hope is if I get enough letters behind my name I can become a part of the new polytechnical university being planned for the territory. I believe a northern university is our greatest opportunity for economic growth in a way that honours the people, the land and the waters. The North has a lot of knowledge to share with the rest of the world. Sharing has been the backbone of EDGE YK. Stories that you won’t find elsewhere, such as Tanya Snow’s reflection on her mother’s life. In the wake of the release of Reclaiming Power and Place, the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Tanya shines light on the love that binds a parent and a child torn apart by the cruelties beset upon Indigenous women past and present (see page 16). It’s important writing and I urge you to take time to read it as we work towards Truth and Reconciliation. History is embedded in the land around us, as Tim Edwards discovered on a canoe trip into Hidden Lake. Beyond Hidden’s clear waters and stunning vistas the remnants of an old gold mine can be found, although water contamination from the bygone era is invisible. Tim ponders what a new era of gold mining could mean to our environs and economy, with the Yellowknife City Gold exploration project enveloping 783

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square kilometres of claims in the area around the city, including Walsh, Vee and Banting lakes (see page 20). Michele Culhane provides another historical take this issue as she looks at the impact that sand, music and fun have had on generations of YK kids who grew up attending the annual Folk on the Rocks music festival each July (see page 29). We serve up a full plate of arts profiles, with stories by Sarah Swan that highlight the embroidery works of Mary Louise Drygeese (see page 44) and jewellery designer Tania Larsson (see page 25), as well as an update on the local Art Battle by Nicolas Servel (see last page). There’s our regular feature favourites, a Found Food recipe to beat the summer heat (see page 9), an epic tale of adventure from the Old Town Versifier (see page 39) and a glimpse into what it was like to work inside Con Mine in this installment of Those ‘70s Stories (see page 11). As always, you can continue to send your pitches for story ideas, photos, art... anything that connects the people of Yellowknife to one another, to editor@edgeyk.ca, and they’ll reach our new editor Matthew Mallon. Matthew is publisher of EDGE YK and grew up here, so he’s pretty grounded in what makes this place tick. He also brings a wealth of experience to the job, having edited and written for magazines spanning the globe, from Vancouver to Paris to Tokyo. I can attest, he gives a warm welcome to new contributors and is always looking for innovative ways to tell a story. Don’t be shy. Get in touch! This issue he spent some time with Green Party leader Elizabeth May and her YK-born new hubby John Kidder (see page 30). I’ll stay on as a contributing editor because I can’t stand the thought of saying goodbye forever. It’s been a genuine honour and pleasure to bring this community-driven little gem of a publication to you. Thanks to our advertisers, VERGE Communications and all the contributors and readers for keeping it real for almost eight years. Here’s to many more. - LAURIE SARKADI Editor

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FOUND FOOD

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Recipe by CALVIN ROSSOUW Photos by ETIENNE CROTEAU

THE FOUND FOOD ingredient for this recipe is the abundant labrador tea. The leaves from the labrador tea plant have a pungent, earthy, citrusy aroma. For me this is what the forest smells like. Crush a few in your hands and use as a bush deodorant. Or you can save some in your pocket and make delicious teas, or in this case, syrup. The foresty flavour of the labrador tea with the insanely refreshing citrus notes of kaffir lime work together in perfect harmony. If you can boil water and strain it, then you can make awesome syrups at home. Use this syrup to make a refreshing summertime soda, or spike it with gin and some wild mint leaves for a great northern highball cocktail.

INGREDIENTS

• 4 C sugar • 5 C water • ½ C lime juice • ⅓ C lemon juice • 1 C Labrador tea leaves • 1 C kaffir lime leaves • Pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and allow to steep for another 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and allow to cool. Keep in the refrigerator. Combine the syrup with soda water, adjusting the amount of syrup to your preferred sweetness.

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Yellowknife's Con Mine with its Robertson headframe. NWT Archives/©GNWT. Dept of Public Works and Services/G-1995-001: 2825

THOSE '70s STORIES

A SIMPLER TIME FOR GOLD HEISTS AND HIJINKS by GLENN SMITH

After a series of odd jobs, young Glenn Smith landed employment at Con Mine in the winter of 1973, where one of his jobs was polishing gold bricks worth almost half-a-million dollars by today’s prices

THERE WAS A WEEK that winter that got

real cold, so cold you could toss a glass of water up and watch it vaporize and freeze. You had to be careful if you were exerting yourself outside as you could scorch your lungs – freeze the tissue in your breathing cavity. An upside to it being that clear and frigid was seeing the northern lights sometimes. My oil space heater was doing the job but one night I awoke to a bonfire in the middle of my cabin. I had turned up the oil drip too high and it was really doing the job. Luckily, I was thinking and cut off the feed from the tank as there was already oil dripping onto the floor. I remember there was ice fog on Latham Island that week and there was an other-worldly look to the place. I saw a sun dog, a ring around the sun colored by the light spectrum. My neighbours the Baileys, who ran the Pentecostal Church and mission down on Latham Island, were visited often by a young missionary named Peter. He was in his early twenties and worked at the Pentecostal Church in Behchoko, which was then known as Fort Rae. Despite our lack of common religious beliefs, we hit it off, both being from Ontario. The Baileys were his heroes and he helped them out with chores whenever he was around. And I helped them whenever I could too, doing what needed to be done, as I was pretty handy. I used their shower and many times I sat at their dinner table as they served the humblest of meals for whoever showed up. In the new year Peter parked his International Harvester Travelall truck/ van in my yard for a couple of months and flew back to Ontario. He was to meet up with his sweetheart whom he was planning to marry, an arranged union through his church. She would become the wife of a missionary and at some point come up north to see what it was like before they tied the knot. It was a formal and proper courtship as they were both devout Christians. At that time, the Baileys were putting up a mom and her twelve-year-old boy Johnny August 2019

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from the High Arctic. The moment I saw him I knew he was trouble, having been a high-spirited child myself. I’d heard that traditional Inuit have a custom of letting children have as much free rein as possible as their life would become very hard as adults. But he was real loudmouthed and sassy and if he wandered over to my place I chased him away. The mother had her own problems and had no control over him. So, when the Baileys’ cat disappeared I personally thought Johnny had something to do with it. But he denied knowing anything about it and that was the end of that...for a while. When Peter came back in the spring and opened his truck up the smell of death filled the air. Someone had gotten into the truck and locked the cat in the glove compartment and when it warmed up outside the mess went to maggots. I had seen Johnny inside the truck at one point and rousted him out so I had my suspicions. Someone had put the cat there, but the culprit was never found. Johnny and his mom were long gone by then. One of the men at the mission was always playing jokes on people and he caught me in a good one that had ramifications for a few years. He told me very excitedly one day that there was a litter of real sled dog pups and that I could have one if I hurried. I agreed and later he brought me a pup. They all look the same when they are young and I now had a dog. But that animal turned out to be no sled dog; it was a smallish terrier type. She was always shaking so I called her Shaker and I had that dog for a few years but never really bonded with it, finally giving her away to a lady in Parksville, B.C. I was looking for work in late winter and found my job working in a gold mine, Cominco, known as Con Mine. Gold mining was the biggest employer in town (along with the territorial government) but had its ups and downs as a resource. The price of gold was rising, and I think it went up from forty to one hundred dollars a troy ounce over my tenure there. They asked me in the job application if I wanted to work underground, which paid more for danger but was not for everyone. I preferred not to, and got hired to work in the assay office. My favorite study in high school was geology so I was tickled pink. But my actual position was not so glamorous. I was the "bucker” and my job was pulverizing rock core samples into a fine powder. I had my own shop beside the assay office equipped with some crushing machines and a bench. My time was spent making rock powder and then cleaning my always dusty shop. The raw core samples were delivered to me from underground and I would pound the cores to a powder with my loud crusher, label them and take them to the scientists next door for their analysis. I had full rein in the bucking room and could play loud music if I wanted which was handy if I had nothing to do. No one bothered the bucker as I was always making rock dust and noise. I also got to hang out at the assay office and watch them

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work. I was pretty much their step and fetch it. But it was interesting working with the geologists and seeing their processes. Once every two weeks I had a different job... the gold brick polisher. After all the processing in the mill they eventually came up with a refined powder that they would smelt into gold bricks in a building called the pouring shed. I think the ratio was one ton of ore to get one ounce of gold. I was stationed in a small room in that shed separated from the blast furnace with a concrete sink and water flowing in it. They brought the cooled molten brick in the mould and dropped it in the sink. Water was run onto it and the brick would spit out from the mould. My job was to polish it with a wire brush on a power drill. There was a screen in the drain hole of the sink where little flecks of gold would accumulate. At that time, they didn’t seem concerned about the little pieces and I recall sending a small piece to my Grandpa Ralph Smith that would be worth a hell of a lot more money today. As I write this gold is $1,200 an ounce and I can imagine the security involved in a gold mine nowadays. Before I got the job at Con mine there was a heist of some gold bricks there. The RCMP would pick up the finished bricks in a car and deliver them to the airport. They stopped for a coffee on the way whereupon the crooks deviously stole the police vehicle. But they weren’t very smart as there are only two quick ways to get the gold out of town, by driving or flying. They chose to try and fly it out on a commercial flight and got caught as the containers they shipped it in were way too heavy. When the weather was good I worked outside at the mine with a young scientist from the University of Alberta whose job was to find something that would grow in the dry tailings ponds out back of the mill, a grey forbidden zone full of ultra toxic leftovers. It was like driving around on the moon, a plot of land that the mining establishment didn’t want the public to see. But it was a pleasant job nonetheless and I could ask questions and follow the research. He was gene splicing trees to come up with something that would grow in extreme acidic conditions as the ponds contain cyanide amongst other killer chemicals. So, the idea was to create a lemon-type, extreme-acidic-soilloving tree that could survive minus forty in the winter. As always, we come back to Nature to repair our messes. But that said, gold is a very important metal for us in ways other than vanity or treasures. It has scientific purposes as well, being the best electrical conductor we know of. We need it but it’s messy to get. Sadly, I hear that they are still cleaning up at Con and at Giant, both mines in Yellowknife that are now depleted and closed. No end is in sight. This is the fourth installment in Glenn Smith’s series Those ‘70s Stories, based on a youthful adventure to the North after leaving his hometown of Toronto. He lives in Vancouver now.


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Roses are red...

OR, MAKE THAT GREEN A glimpse into the fleeting, trans-continental romance that led Elizabeth May and EDGE YK contributor John Kidder to the altar Story by MATTHEW MALLON Photo by ANGELA GZOWSKI

THE DAY AFTER attracting some 200 or

so Yellowknifers to a standing-room-only gathering at Northern United Place, and about a week before hiring Warren Kinsella as part of her comms team for the upcoming federal election, we meet Elizabeth May and her new husband John Kidder as they finish up a tour of the Legislative Assembly.

But enough about federal politics and the end of human civilization. Another element of these interesting times for May is that she is, at the age of 65, giddy in love. With an EDGE YK contributor. John Kidder, born in Yellowknife 71 or so years ago, was led into the EDGE YK offices a few years back by the Snowking and introduced to us as a “cowboy poet from the west coast.” He wrote a piece for us (Return to Yellowknife, April/May 2017), and gave us his mother’s letters about life in early Yellowknife, which we edited and ran as Dear Family: the Jill Kidder Letters (edgenorth.ca/article/dear-family-the-jill-kidder-letters). A gently craggy fellow, he’d led a fascinating life: a ranch hand, a miner, an agricultural economist, a founder of the B.C. Green Party, etc. When we meet May and Kidder at the legislature, we ask them how their September/October romance last fall kicked off. It is in some ways a story of multiple connections, of how small a town Canada can be. “I think I’ve met more Canadians than anyone else,” says May. “I know their stories. More than any other party leader. I mean, it’s just gonna happen because I’m 65. But the number of ways in which John and I were connected, before we actually got together? I knew both of his sisters. I knew Annie more, but I’d also met Margot.”

As the packed-out meeting — attended by a mix of the usual suspects, but also by a Canadian politics as a small town: sizable contingent of curious new faces — “There was a moment in Parliament, when I was explaining showed, these are interesting times for May: a planet on fire; to Justin: “By the way,” because we’re friends a national election — I’m friends with everybody, or I try — offering a dispiriting “guess what? I’m in love!” This is not a array of mainstream thing you usually talk about in parliament, It’s a good political options; and but I was giving him the question I was going thing we got increased attention to to ask him that day, So I’m telling Justin all married, because the Greens bringing this news, and there’s a connection, because we don’t have time both potential voters John is Margot’s brother. And Justin’s face to date. and negative attention totally changed, and he said, “Oh, God, I from political rivals. loved her. I have so many great memories of Margot” — which I would not have Put aside, if you can, guessed.” the existential threat

to the planet, and conventional wisdom says this is a break-out election opportunity for the Greens. At the event, part of a national community meeting series, May is at pains to burnish her centrist credentials and point out that the Greens are not a single issue party, referencing a range of policies and plans — Northern ones, even — but ends with the observation: “We've never been a one-issue party — but if you're going to have one issue, survival is a good one."

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A nearby Liberal MP overheard the conversation, May says, and asked: “What are you guys talking about?” “Oh nothing,” May replied. “Just that my new husband is the older brother of Justin’s father’s ex-girlfriend.” Kidder chimes in, noting that the connections go beyond Canadian political dynasties: his mother, Jill, was an early environmental activist, a devotee of Rachel Carson’s classic environmental early warning, Silent Spring. May’s mother was also an early environmental activist, first in the States and then on the East Coast. “There


are a lot of similarities in how we were raised, our backgrounds.” The pair first met six years ago, when Kidder stood as a Green party candidate in Merritt, B.C., and May spent a day with him. It was a pleasant time, May says, and then as she was leaving, “I looked back, and a fully formed sentence hit me, which was ‘I’m supposed to be with this man.’ It was weird.” The pair continued to see each other at occasional Green Party events, but there was little chance for further developments, and Kidder, whose wife had passed away a few years before, wasn’t

champing at the bit to get back on any dating scene. He was charmed, impressed, smitten, but not making any moves. May did what she could, including confessing her crush to one of Kidder’s daughters, who was interviewing her in Paris prior to the Paris Accords. ”I said, ‘What’s he doing up in Ashcroft all by himself? Riding around on a horse being cute all by himself? What’s with that?’” Eventually, after much scheming by friends and family, and a this-is-themoment moment at the Green Party national convention in September of

last year, the pair confessed their mutual attraction. Things, as the saying goes, then went whirlwind, and they were married on Earth Day, April 22, 2019. “It’s a good thing we got married, because we don’t have time to date. The first time we ever sat down to dinner? We were in Katowice, Poland. We were already engaged, and I was at the climate negotiations. And it was the first chance I had for an open dinner. In December. In Poland.” And they’re off, back into the fray.

May and Kidder on the shore of Frame Lake in July, where John spread his late sister's ashes.

August 2019

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A

ierce

Tanya Snow’s mother would do battle against anyone to protect her young daughter from racism in Yellowknife. Now that little girl has grown up, and understands why.

Story by TANYA SNOW Photo by ANGELA GZOWSKI

HAD A BUNCH of missed calls from my mom. In her voicemails she asked me, worried, to call her back as soon as possible. I’d been at work and had to pick up my son at school. I called her back. She picked up the phone, earnest, hesitant.

“You okay, Panik?” “Yeah, I’m fine. Why, what’s up?” “I just came back from the police station.” “For what?” “A young girl was murdered by a man named Raymond Cormier last week. I saw him the last day she was seen. They needed a statement from me... You sure you’re okay?” “I’m fine… Are you okay?” “As long as you’re okay, I’m okay,” she said. She calls every other day to check in, to make sure I’m okay and has regularly over the past few years. Though most times I think her worries are projections of the things she sees from the rough neighbourhoods of Winnipeg: violence, addictions, poverty, suicide, murder. I reassure her often that I’m fine, yet her worries don’t seem to end.

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I grew up in a low-cost neighbourhood in Yellowknife with my mom and younger sister. We didn’t feel poor because we had lots of food, lots of love and more. We moved from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, to Yellowknife in the early ‘90s so my mom could go to school. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt an intense sense of security from my mother. It’s as if her love and protection follow me around like the wind. Though she had trouble with alcohol and we spent most of our childhood in foster care, I grew up in a bubble constructed by her hopes and dreams for a better future. I give her credit for giving her best and educating us to be decent human beings. She was strict, loving and battled a lot of demons as a single mother searching for the right path after the upheaval of her residential school experience. Mom attended residential school until grade four when she was expelled for regularly fighting back against her teachers and principal because of the cultural and racial genocide being committed against our people. As an adult, she stands 4’ 11’’ and 120 lbs., but is part wolverine: small, cute and could tear your face off if you mess with her.

My mom couldn’t stand when bullies hurt my feelings or called us dirty Eskimos.

As an intuitive nurturer, kids in our neighbourhood gravitated to our home to eat my mom’s cooking, watch TV and get scolded for tracking sand into the house. She was tough, but children and women loved her company because she is a natural protector. And protect she did, especially when it came to my feelings. I wanted to be a ballerina when I was a kid; I was quiet and introverted. My younger sister was born feisty and could hold her own on the playground but me – I was too emotional and didn’t fight back. My mom couldn’t stand bullies that called us dirty Eskimos and what-not. She’d extract the name from the child that bullied me then go after their parents because she’d say, “There aren’t bad kids, only bad parents.” She’d hunt down their parents and scare them into becoming August 2019

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better caregivers, sometimes using her fists. She wasn’t afraid of anyone, not even the cops that came by to speak to her for scaring the bullies’ parents. My peace of mind was the most important thing to her. Most of the time I lived in this ballerina-esque dreamland where the world is a wonderful place filled with wonderful people like Mister Rogers and Mother Theresa. Because that’s what my mom strived to show me on her good days. I am named after my mother’s father, Equak Niviatsiak, so she respected me like an elder – the same way she treated her dad when he was alive. In Inuit culture words hold immense power, like spell-casting, so when I heard what bullies my own age said I couldn’t believe there were kids out there that had enough anger and sadness to want to bring another person down – or the fact that they didn’t have parents that cared about raising decent human beings. My mom has always been a fighter. She had to be. As a child she fought off geographical displacement, hunger, sexual predators, violent boyfriends, government officials, colonial teachers and principals. Fighting was survival. She made sure I didn’t lift a finger when it came to protecting myself because she wanted me to focus on being a kid. People in our neighbourhood used to say: “Don’t mess with the Roach family or Dorothy will hunt you down.” But she drank too hard on her bad days so we spent the rest of our childhood in foster care. Honestly, as a foster kid I saw some strange shit in other peoples’ homes: hunger, bullying, alcoholism, kids disrespecting their parents, parents not enforcing rules or teaching manners. Still, foster care was nothing compared to what my mom had to face. She continued fighting when she lost, permanently, the custody of my sister and me when I was 13. She moved away to Winnipeg and slipped into the gang scene. We didn’t keep in contact until I became a parent. In August 2014 she was a witness in the Tina Fontaine case. That’s when she called me, after seeing Raymond Cormier around Tina’s neighbourhood before the 15-year-old’s body was found in the Red River. He was tried for second-degree murder but not convicted. My mother warned me of the way the world could be and for a long time I didn’t understand what she was talking about. She protected me so hard I didn’t know how harsh the world could get. She blocked out discrimination, hate, violence and normalized respect and decency so I would always know and accept being treated like a human being. Now I’m beginning to understand. I wake to the sound of a woman screaming – her boyfriend beating her in the apartment above me each week – and remember how much I need to respect myself. When I go to a pub for brunch and get pursued by men that are curious about my “nativeness” when all I want to do is eat; when I go for a jog around City Hall and get cat-called; when I am verbally harassed walking down the hallway of my apartment building; when I'm walking past

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the swimming pool on my way to work and a man I don't know grabs me, chases after me, I begin to see the world differently – as it is. When I'm at the emergency department and my son has a fever of 39 degrees and a local pediatrician asks me if I’ve been drinking or have a history of substance abuse problems or a history of mental illness BEFORE looking at my child whose had a fever for days; when I’m at work and denied promotion because, ‘I'm a single mother and therefore, less reliable’ – this is my reality. Women that babysat me as a child have been murdered either by boyfriends or shot and killed by police here in Yellowknife. My mother’s been brutally beaten by Winnipeg police and now has permanent vision and hearing problems. My aunt, who I never met, was a child when she was sent to Ottawa for tuberculosis treatment and never returned. Tina Fontaine’s death renewed calls for an inquiry into why so many Indigenous women and girls go missing. After two years of testimony, Reclaiming Power and Place, the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls was released in June. The report is violent truth seeping through the cracks of the “friendly Canadian" facade. The ink on the page carries weight, tainted history continuing today. The paper breathes life to the truth. My mom’s truth. And now, my truth. So when Andrew Scheer, the leader of the federal Conservative party, disagrees with the report’s conclusion that Indigenous women’s and girls’ deaths amount to “race-based genocide,” I ask him to look up the dictionary definition of genocide: “The deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political or cultural group.” What were residential schools for? Why didn’t the Canadian Government return my aunt after she was treated for tuberculosis? Why is there forced sterilization of Indigenous women? Why are there reservations across Canada without clean drinking water? There are healthy Indigenous families that have overcome systematic oppression and yet Indigenous populations are overrepresented in the foster care system and in prisons. I’ve had social services called on me before. Meanwhile, Canada’s Auditor General released a report last winter stating that NWT Health and Social Services is failing to ensure children within its system are looked after and the department had still not implemented recommendations made four years ago. Indigenous women are the fruit of the earth, the original royalty on the land infected with colonization. Disrespecting us is like disrespecting the hand that feeds you. The ground will quake, the sky will tremble and the ocean will cleanse our world of impurity until all women are respected and the spirits of the missing and murdered are redeemed.


The 2019 Health and

Social Services Northwest Territories Help Directory

is a convenient one-stop shop for all health services available to NWT residents

To access the directory, visit www.hss.gov.nt.ca.


?

PADDLES orPICKAXES

We live in one of the world’s most thriving watersheds. But it remains under threat by the mining mistakes of the past. With major exploration projects spending $4 billion on winter drilling programs, another mining boom could be in YK’s future. Can the environment, mining and people forge a healthy future together? Story by TIM EDWARDS | Photos by ANGELA GZOWSKI 45-MINUTE DRIVE, three short portages

A late-night sunset at Hidden Lake (right); Three short portages make Hidden Lake a popular spot for canoeists (far right).

and you’re in Hidden Lake Territorial Park. The first islands are beautiful – overcamped, maybe, but idyllic. If you pass through them into the winding northern portion of the park, a corridor with bays out to the sides and gentle peninsulas, you can sometimes find a bit more room to breathe. At the end of this corridor is a little pinch that signifies the end of the park and the start of the lake proper, home to in-use cabins and historic mine sites. Looking out of the park, through the narrow passage into the big lake, it almost always looks less friendly than the park itself. It’s expansive and less shielded from winds. Every time I’ve been there, whitecaps have rolled by as I’ve watched from the calm of the corridor. One summer day we set out through the pinch, heading for the north bay and a hiking trail to the Thompson-Lundmark mine at Thompson Lake, which produced more than 70,000 ounces of gold in the 1940s before it exhausted its main ore reserves and shut down in 1949. It took an hour to find the trail – a former winter

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road – and it was a miserable slog in hot sun through peat marsh, beset by horseflies, to reach the spot. Out of an initial group of eight, only three of us pushed on to the end. We found nothing at the marked site but a shallow, mucky lake. The remnants of the mine, we found out later, had burned down years before. There were signs of that old activity along the way. Deep treads from the winter road lined a path that was still clear through the bush in some spots. An old, caved-in,


wooden cabin sits near where the trailhead should be. The land was peaceful. It seemed like a quaint operation that had all but disappeared, slowly retaken by the land. Nothing like the large-scale disaster left behind by Giant Mine, which closed only a couple decades ago. I didn’t trust the water though and certainly didn’t fill my empty bottle there. Giardia is one thing but ecological remediation is mostly a modern concept. Further research proved that to be a good choice. ThompsonLundmark is one of dozens of still-contaminated sites left over from historic mining operations in the territory. Many of them still have debris, some have structures that at least serve as warning to land-users wandering through. These scars, fossils from a bygone era, are inextricably tied to the history of Yellowknife and the territories. While the old mining town has given way to a government city, populated in large degree by artists, outdoorsy folk and progressives, mineral development will still be central to any great increase in population, decrease in cost of living and investment in infrastructure. Throughout the North, there’s been no hint of an industry that could supplant it. Tourism’s doing very well right now but global economic shifts can make it as boom-and-bust as mining. A new polytechnic university could have a huge impact on the city, too, as long as it’s executed with ambition and gusto. Alternative industries are by no means a longshot but they aren’t falling into our laps either.

park. Another’s claims envelope almost all the area directly around Yellowknife. More than a few people would likely be happy to have no prospecting sprees, like those of bygone days, ever again. But without growth, what will happen to the city? When Giant was on the brink of closing, things looked grim. For a moment. Then in 1991 Chuck Fipke and his band of prospectors found diamonds – a hard stone with industrial uses that became somehow more lucrative, due in no small part to clever marketing, than gold – and mines were opened by the time Giant went under in 1999. Environmental queasiness aside, we were saved. Will we be saved again when the diamond mines close in the coming years?

LITHIUM HAS BEEN FOUND AT THE BOTTOM END OF HIDDEN LAKE

As we paddled back and then drove to town, we weren’t far from mining exploration projects currently in the works. One sits on the bottom shore of Hidden Lake proper, relatively far from the

“From a historian's perspective, I understand how important and essential mining has been to the community,” says Ryan Silke, a city historian and guide. “But I also know it is not a reasonable expectation that mining will keep us going forever.” Silke has detailed the city’s mining history, saving stories before they disappear and mapping August 2019

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100 years of activity in the NWT. I often wonder what the town will look like without them, after all that we have built. I almost look forward to the peace and quiet,” he said, noting he’s only slightly kidding. At last year’s Yellowknife Geoscience Forum, Silke gave a “what if” history of the city. What if gold was never found? Or diamonds up north? What if Yellowknife had never been founded, let alone become a capital city? It brought a lot to mind, he said, about this city that we’ve blasted into the rock. The aesthetic standards, or lack of, that we’ve accepted. Our reliance on one industry that, by its very nature, is here today and gone the next. To me, it also raises questions about our future. Can anyone imagine a thriving city without another miraculous discovery?

Land use permits granted TerraX Minerals for its Yellowknife City Gold exploration project envelope 783 square kilometres in and around the city. Map courtesy: Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board public registry.

Maybe it’s not time to worry yet. Two golden geese sit just beyond the city proper. But each one tells a different tale – one of promise and one of warning. The old, haggard goose of warning is the Giant Mine Remediation Project. It’s been said, repeatedly, that this project will have the economic impact of a mine for its duration. It will spend $1 billion in government funding to clean up the mess left behind by Royal Oak Mines Inc. when it went bankrupt in 1999. That mess includes 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide dust, which is frozen and kept in stasis by thermosyphons so it won’t leach into groundwater, to be managed and monitored in perpetuity. Giant Mine laid shaky groundwork for any sort of trusting relationship between industry and the public, especially those who care about the land’s integrity. While it’s being cleaned up, at enormous public expense, it remains a toxic threat to the region with which future generations may have to contend. The goose of promise is still young. TerraX, like many modern resource development companies operating in the North, expends enormous effort to distance itself and its exploration project from the ways of the past. Its Yellowknife City Gold exploration project envelopes 783 square kilometres of claims in the area around the city. It’s just a junior exploration company – if the Yellowknife City Gold project ever becomes a mine, it likely won’t be TerraX at the drills. Despite this, it’s running an outreach effort reminiscent of the big diamond mines – donating, sponsoring events and helping out local organizations like the Yellowknife Ski Club. It’s posted $231 million as a reclamation security, and it caps and revegetates its drill holes. Its real benefit, though, is the reportedly $4-billion winter drilling programs it runs, with much of that spent locally. If this were to one day turn into a mine – and we are not close to that day now – it would likely have a huge impact on the town’s economy. But also the area’s landscape. Walsh, Vee and Banting lakes fall within its boundaries, as does

e 1. Land Use Permits MV2014C0005 and MV2016C0038 and TerraX's YCGP 22 EDGEYK


Prosperous, among other water bodies. Of course, only some of this will show mineral potential, and only some may be mined in the future – and even then, only after extensive consultation with land users and Indigenous governments and scrutiny from the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. But given the extent, the effects of a mine may be noticeable in ways we don’t expect and not everyone will be happy. Lithium has been found at the bottom end of Hidden Lake (far enough from the park that it likely won’t affect weekend paddlers). Rare earths such as neodymium and praseodymium – which are used to create strong magnets necessary for alternative energies – may soon be mined north of the East Arm by Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. at its Nechalacho site. There’s activity. But, to stick with my motif, maybe we can learn from one goose to rear the other and use the golden eggs to pay for the farm. Mayor Rebecca Alty believes a balance can be struck. “We do have a lot of land around Yellowknife and in the Northwest Territories,” she says. There are 10 territorial parks along the Ingraham Trail and there’s easy access to Great Slave Lake from the city. “The other thing that’s important is the regulatory process now versus back in the day, and the diamond mines would be part of this new regulatory process, ensuring that when new diamond mines come on board that they have that closure plan before they even begin construction.” Beyond maybe a municipal service agreement – things like fire department and ambulance service – what the city would mainly see from something like TerraX’s project going ahead would be indirect, but the indirect benefits would be substantial. With a mine just a short drive away, the population would grow to accommodate the workforce. The tax base would grow. Businesses would spring up to serve both the mine and the growing population. The Akaitcho Dene First Nations are, as of writing this, on the verge of an agreement-in-principle for their land claim. According to Yellowknives Dene

First Nation negotiator Fred Sangris, this agreement – which will open up land in Yellowknife’s boundaries for development and create certainty in land use after decades of piecemeal measures – comes with a catch: Ndilo and Dettah want to share in the economic prosperity of the region and bring their people out of poverty. To do this, of course, we would need to continue having some sort of economic prosperity to share. As a territory, we can’t afford to house our people. We deliver health services up to a point, but someone in medical emergency might have to make two plane trips before they can receive full care – in Alberta. So many of our

people languish in addictions and poverty. We can hardly attract our base needs for medical personnel and less so for muchneeded mental health professionals. How do we pay for the things that will make our society better? How do we motivate our children to be educated? How do we give them enough meaning to steer past, of their own volition, the abyss of drugs and alcohol? The answer isn’t just jobs, and it certainly isn’t money either, but these are key pieces of the puzzle. It’s all so messy, imperfect and existential. This is what we talk about when we talk about economy. It’s not just consumer capitalism or the pillaging of the land for the greed of a few. It’s the exchange and

management of resources. We convert much of our waking life and energy into money and convert that into shelter and food. It’s not the only way, but it is today’s way. Perhaps the population shrinks. Maybe the feds step in and increase payments to the GNWT – really, a humanitarian effort. This is not beyond possibility. Maybe communities outside Yellowknife become self-sustaining, able to feed and house themselves with what’s around them as they did before colonialism; though that is weather and wildlife dependent and both are in a precarious state as the climate shifts in this age of the anthropocene. Yellowknife will remain an administrative centre but maybe its facilities degrade and disappear and its population dwindles. Perhaps the mining dust that was first kicked up about 100 years ago will settle. But even that scenario would only be temporary. The world always comes knocking; especially if freshwater becomes scarce elsewhere, as is happening already, and remains clean here. Water is destined to become the world’s most coveted commodity. We’ll have to compromise with the feds, with industry, and with our neighbours who have different visions of the territory’s future and different aspirations for their children. Much of this will boil down to different visions for the land and its resources, and we’ll have to find a way to live together. It’ll come down to how many scars on the land we feel the land can take. If we decide to trust that mining is different than it once was, the future of the industry will be on miners’ honour – they promise remediation, and say it’s budgetted in, and we’ll hopefully see them deliver. For many of us, the land and water of this place make it a paradise. It has been the Dene’s breadbasket for as long as there have been Dene. But there is, and will be, a push and pull between the land we love and our ability to keep living on it. All of this may seem a bit far off, but it’s something to start thinking about now.

August 2019

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WORK IN PROGRESS

Right: Beaded gold muskox horn earrings. Photo by Razelle Benally. Bottom: Jewellery designer Tania Larsson at a hide-tanning camp.

Tania Larsson:

De-luxe Dene

by SARAH SWAN

Designer You don’t forget Tania Larsson’s jewellery. Each piece balances beauty with strength, bold contour with fine detail. Larsson’s work was noticed by British Vogue Magazine this past April and featured on the vogueworld blog. The Yellowknife-based artist, studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and is one of the founders of Dene Nahjo, an Indigenous innovation collective in Yellowknife. Born and raised in France by her Gwich’in mother and Swedish father, she moved to the NWT at age 15 to reconnect with her culture and the land. Sarah Swan sat down with Tania in her studio, to talk about fashion, creativity, and activism for EDGE YK.

T

ANIA, YOUR CHOICE TO WORK WITH LUXE MATERIALS – LIKE MUSKOX HORN, GOLD, DIAMONDS, ANTIQUE BEADS – IS NOT JUST AN AESTHETIC CHOICE BUT ONE THAT IS INFORMED BY YOUR BELIEFS AND CONVICTIONS. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THIS?

Growing up in France, my mom shared with us her love for quality materials. The French love quality of course, but this love came from her Gwich’in side. In France, when you make things by hand and use quality materials that uphold French heritage, it’s considered haute couture. The importance of upholding your culture – this is an idea that my mother instilled in me. Oftentimes work that is done by Indigenous artists isn’t valued. Even looking at a pair of moccasins, seeing that every stitch is perfect, I am always so moved. It’s done with so much care and pride. When I know that Indigenous people are being nickel-

and-dimed for the price of their work, it’s completely heartbreaking to me. This undervaluing of their work is not acceptable. It makes me very angry. This is why I want to work with opulent materials. I want people to desire my work, to be happy to pay for the honor of buying and wearing the pieces. I want people to associate my work with Indigenous beauty and opulence. So I use valuable materials that transcend time – dentalium were once used as currency. Diamonds have the utmost intrinsic value. I hope to help change the way we are often seen – as sub-human, as always living in poverty. My work opposes all of that. THERE ARE SO MANY AMAZING DESIGNERS IN THE NORTH. HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR WORK HELPING THE CONTEMPORARY NORTHERN AESTHETIC TO EVOLVE?

When I was in school, I was often thinking about using my culture to create pieces that are not seen as traditional, but that use traditional techniques and materials. I’VE HEARD YOU SPEAK ABOUT HOW YOUR WORK IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST VISUAL APPEAL – CAN YOU EXPLAIN?

Yeah, more than just a ‘look’ or an aesthetic, I find that my pieces give the wearer a real sensory experience of the land – whether it’s the unique quality of the muskox horn, or the tactility of the caribou tufting. If you wear a piece with moosehide, every time you turn your head you get a whiff of the scent, of the smokiness, August 2019

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or you hear the chiming and clicking of the shells. I personally find these sensory experiences very grounding. And I hope the wearers find them grounding too.

Left: Dentallium shells and moosehide earrings. Right: Caribou tufting and muskox horn earrings.

I also believe that the wearer can feel the energy I put into them. This is something you learn when you’re tanning hides. You need to have positive thoughts and be intentional in your thinking, so you don’t disrespect the animal. DO YOU HAVE ANY STORIES ABOUT HOW PEOPLE RESPOND TO YOUR WORK?

Recently someone told me they now understand the purpose of jewellery. They had stopped wearing jewellery, but when they put on one of my pieces they suddenly got it. That was very touching to hear. I have many repeat buyers, because the pieces help them feel powerful. My purpose is this; I want you to walk an inch taller when you wear my work. With some of my earrings you actually have to hold your head higher when you wear them. They make that physical demand! My pieces remind you how to carry yourself, how to stand up strong, in your own power and your own beauty. DO YOU CREATE MOSTLY FOR INDIGENOUS WEARERS?

No! I don’t create just for Indigenous wearers. But, Indigenous people who have knowledge of quality and of the handmade, who know stories about the materials – they will have an innate connection to my work. That is not saying that nonIndigenous won’t have a connection, because they too might value these things. Anybody can wear them. If I create a piece that is connected to ceremony or to a practice we are trying to revitalize that we need adornment for, then I will say ‘for Indigenous wearers only.’ But most of my jewellery is for anyone who appreciates quality and anyone who wants to support an Indigenous artist. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO MOVE TO THE TERRITORIES FROM FRANCE?

I grew up in a beautiful place – a small town in the Alps. But I wanted to know my culture, the land, my family. So I moved to Canada as a teenager, and then my immediate family followed later. What was the most shocking was how hard it was to learn my culture. I mean, I could go berry picking with my aunty, but it was hard to find people who tanned hides. I also didn’t understand residential school. I had to learn. I was disconnected too, to the effects of colonialism on Indigenous people and on me personally. The hardest thing was learning how to ask questions to the elders and knowledge-holders. I eventually learned skills and techniques, but I also learned that technique is cheap. More important, and more beautiful, are the stories you learn, the conversations you have, the bonds you form. DID YOU MAKE ANY MISTAKES OR BLUNDERS, WHEN LEARNING YOUR CULTURE?

So many! You have to be super humble! You’re learning how to chop wood, how to walk in the bush, how to identify vegetation, how to gather, how to sharpen and use a knife, how to make a fire, how to smoke a hide. You’re learning all the protocols and the stories specific to each place, and that is such a privilege.

26 EDGEYK

DO YOU MISS EUROPE?

I can go visit! There’s lots of beads there! (laughs). YOU WERE A FEATURED DESIGNER FOR THE INAUGURAL INDIGENOUS FASHION WEEK IN TORONTO, IN 2018. WHAT DID YOU MAKE FOR THE RUNWAY?

It was a written sign that said ‘protect the caribou,’ made out of beads and shells on muskox leather, and held around the model’s neck by a caribou necklace. I worked with Cleo Keahna who was my model. For me, it was scary. Sometimes it is really hard to fight injustices. And for Gwich’in people, the caribou is life. They are an integral part of our diet, our culture, our spirituality. I knew that when it comes to the runway, I’d only have a few seconds to make an impact. There’s a sense of urgency over this topic, especially with the Alaskan herd dying and the threat of oil development. CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT HAPPENED?

I told Cleo to be himself and to be intentional with his walk, and he did me proud. He took a long time to walk down the runway. He did not rush. It was a real performance – even his breathing was emphasized as he walked. He paused for a long moment before opening his arms wide at the end of the runway, displaying the message. Even though the music was loud and fast – I worked with Young Dene to create the music – Cleo was intentionally slow. You could see his chest moving up and down. It was a powerful moment. It shifted the whole mood and energy of the room. WHAT ARE YOUR CHALLENGES, YOUR JOYS, YOUR STRESSES – WHEN CREATING?

I say what I believe in, and sometimes I raise eyebrows, and maybe this will be a difficult thing in the future. My challenge is not to let myself become another passive brand. I have to use my brand to say my truth. The bottom line is that it’s not ‘just’ jewellery. It’s a statement. When I create something, I get so excited, and so happy. To know that people connect with my work, that it creates desire in them, that it touches their soul – there is nothing better! (This interview has been edited for length.) Tania’s work can be viewed at www.tanialarsson.com



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28 EDGEYK


Behold the Feral Children of Folk on the Rocks From buying their own food to getting their first tattoo (henna, that is), being let loose at the annual summer festival is a rite of passage for YK kids Story by MICHELE CULHANE | Photo by ANGELA GZOWSKI “AND REMEMBER, no swimming in the lake!” These and similar words have been firmly and loudly voiced by myself and many a parent when they first allowed their children to run feral at the Yellowknife Folk on the Rocks (FOTR) music festival. OK, maybe feral is a strong word, but when you look at its dictionary meaning: “in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication” and compare that to the small yet somewhat intimidating gangs of boisterous young kids, faces blackened by sand and barely recognisable – no supervising adults in sight – feral isn’t that much of a stretch. For many Yellowknife children, FOTR is the first time they are allowed to roam free, often with a few dollars in hand, in a safe and contained environment.

For a kid, music is generally secondary to the festival environment. It’s really about buying your first ice cream without your parent’s help, or getting a henna tattoo of your choice, or building intricate sand infrastructure for hours on end. I once found my five-year-old daughter grimy but super pleased with herself, having been buried in the sand

next to main stage by her friends and sister. A quick check-in and brief dispatch of parental advice to the crew – “Great job but please don’t put sand on her face” – and off I went to take in the performers at the cultural stage. My children are now teenagers and make their FOTR spending money by babysitting pre-feral youngsters while their parents get to spend some quality adult time in the beer garden. As I reflected on the first year they roamed solo with excitement, walkie-talkies in hand, I became curious to hear from other festival goers about their feral children stories. What are the long-term effects of freeranging our children at FOTR sans helicopter parent overhead? I met Marie Adams and her then 12-year-old daughter Jhilian when I moved to Yellowknife over 20 years ago. Marie has been folking out every third weekend in July since the festival started in 1980. “It was very important to me to bring my children to Folk on the Rocks as there were limited opportunities in 1980s’ Yellowknife to expose them to a wide variety of music and performance, and to the August 2019

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unique atmosphere, food and people at the festival,” she explained. Shy as a child herself, Marie wanted her daughter and son to be comfortable around adults and in a crowded setting. FOTR, a community-run festival in a giant, naturally confined sandbox, was an ideal event to provide the freedom necessary to learn basic life skills, while simultaneously exposing their young minds to a living arts community. Marie’s daughter Jhilian was eight when she first free ranged, very responsibly managing her allocated funds while exploring the site and occasionally listening to music. Compared to her younger brother she was much less feral. “There was a big sense of independence with the money we were given to spend,’ recalls Jhilian, who is now in her early thirties and works for the GNWT. “It was well before cell phones so we used our watches to meet at a certain tree at given check-in times, or on the ‘6’ and the ‘12’ for my brother. Mom gave us the freedom to decide what we wanted to do. It was my first experience young-adulting.” As with my kids, Jhilian made her first solo purchase at FOTR. She explained that the freedom she was given at the festival definitely made her more comfortable as an older child and teenager when they were travelling in big cities down south. Andrea Patenaude, who moved to Yellowknife from Winnipeg over 10 years ago with her partner Gerald Enns, admits she is a bit of a denizen of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and has been delighted to get her annual folk fix north of 60. However, with the births of their sons, now ages seven and nine, came a new festival experience – more gear and mess, less beer-garden time. Despite the challenges they still have the occasional tailgate party and FOTR, with its late nights under the midnight sun, is a fixture on their family summer calendar. This year they are turning a new leaf; it will be the boys’ turn to free range for the first time. (A little advice from Marie – give the kids their spending money in increments!) Instilling positive musical experiences is important to Andrea, as well as many other parents I’ve talked to over the years. Exposing youngsters to a wide range of live music in a laid-back and positive setting is a great way to absorb many genres of music over time, potentially inspiring future musicians. Music can transfix any of us, however seeing small children leaning right up against the stages, awed by performers such as Tanya Tagaq, is truly a beautiful sight. There aren’t many festivals where kids are allowed to get up so close without being reprimanded or without concern for their safety. The size of our northern festival is just right for kids. Feral and free-ranging young children at a large southern festival may not be looked upon so favourably. Equally as important though, it’s lighting a spark in our little ones – particularly as they move into the teen years – to all that is wonderful about FOTR. The majority of children will not become performers, however they can very likely become assistant stage managers, ticket takers, face painters, and future beer servers – all extremely

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valuable life skills and key to keeping this incredible community festival rocking into the future. Although it’s common for parents who previously volunteered to take a break when their children are small, they do often make it a family affair as they grow up. When given the freedom to roam, the once feral children often turn out to be the best volunteers as they truly appreciate the cool experiences FOTR has bestowed upon them. My children have certainly enjoyed their time painting picnic tables and then spotting their masterpieces during the festival. And as Jhilian points out, “It’s a right of passage, and so much fun, to volunteer in the beer garden when you turn 19.” Marie gave her kids the freedom to roam, yet she always had a welcoming blanket at main stage waiting for them and their friends, so she knew they would return regularly for visits. Reflecting on her time at FOTR as an adult, Jhilian is grateful her mom went to all the effort to ensure the most positive experience possible for her and her brother. It’s made her much more appreciative of the festival as an adult who may someday be extending those experiences to her own children. Despite an awkward, nondancing phase in her early teens, she admits it isn’t FOTR unless she dances with her mom. “I would absolutely take my kids to Folk, and be sure to embarrass them early on the dance floor to prepare them for life.” Although Andrea’s kids aren’t much into getting a groove on with their parents, they perform in other creative ways. “One time I went to check out a band and left my family at a side stage with some heavy rock vibes in the air,” she recalls. “The next day someone had posted a video on Facebook of my two boys full-on wrestling in the sand at the front of the stage along with commentary about the savagery of the young unidentified wrestlers. The video also showed snippets of Gerald just dancing away to the side, oblivious to the fact that our kids’ fighting had become the focal point of the set. So obviously they feel comfortable just being kids at FOTR!” FOTR is a fabulous venue for imparting children with some new-found freedom, while they also experience all that is beautiful and unique about a northern music festival, from drum dancing, to bannock, to midnight sun, to sand glorious sand. Just remember, when you see those sootyfaced and wild youngsters roaming the site and wonder where their parents are, these are likely the kids who will grow up to be future volunteer FOTR board members. With the ubiquity of cell phones these days, going oldschool feral isn’t as easy as it used to be. Now friends text you pictures of your half-buried sandy children which can be a minor distraction from that quality beer-gardenadulting time. When I occasionally come across a kid checking the time on their watch, I can’t help but smile.


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RECONCILIATION:

Starting The Conversation What’s the plan? The City of Yellowknife is developing a Reconciliation Action Plan — a foundation for how the City will build respectful relationships with, and create a more inclusive representation of, Indigenous Peoples within the City. This plan will be a key part of the City’s path toward reconciliation. To ensure this is a truly representative and foundational document, the City is seeking your input: along with input from Indigenous governments, organizations, businesses, we want to hear from all people who call Yellowknife and the surrounding area home.


Why is the City Doing This? How can you be Involved? TELL US WHAT YOU THINK! What are your thoughts on actions the City should take to help reconciliation?

How can the City help create mutually respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples, governments and communities?

What else should the City do to welcome other ideas about reconciliation?

You can read the initial Starting a Conversation document on the City site (https://www.yellowknife.ca/en/livinghere/Reconciliation.asp), and then contact us with your feedback, or keep an eye out for upcoming events: • Call the City at (867) 920-5693 •E mail Council at council@yellowknife.ca

City Council recently confirmed its Strategic Priorities for 2019-2022, and Reconciliation is highlighted as one of the City of Yellowknife’s six core values. As a municipal government, the City of Yellowknife’s main function is to provide good government to community residents, to maintain a safe community, and to provide programs and services. A functional reconciliation action plan is key to providing and improving these functions.

GOVERNANCE

COMMUNITY SERVICES

City Council,

Library, City and

City Administrator,

Recreational Facilities,

Clerks Office and

Recreation Programing

Corporate Services

and Special Events

PHYSICAL SPACES

PUBLIC SAFETY

Community

Fire Department,

land planning,

ambulance, Bylaw

building approval

Enforcement; and

and inspections

Emergency response

BUSINESS COMMUNITY RELATIONS

MUNICIPAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Business Licencing and

Roads, sidewalks,

Economic

water and sewer

Development

•W rite to the City at P.O. Box 580, Yellowknife, NT X1A 2N4 •C all the City’s Indigenous Relations Advisor at (867) 669-3495 • Email reconciliation@yellowknife.ca

Our focus for reconciliation will be on these functions and responsibilities. If any of the ideas or feedback we receive fall beyond our scope, the City will seek to support contributors in bringing their ideas to the appropriate agency or order of government.


Our Commitment At a Traditional Knowledge Keepers Forum sponsored by the Truth and Reconciliation Commision, Anishinaabe Elder Mary Deleary spoke about the responsibility for reconciliation that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people carry. She emphasized that the work of reconciliation must continue in ways that honour the ancestors, respect the land, and rebalance relationships:

“I’m so filled with belief and hope because when I hear your voices at the table, I hear and know that the responsibilities that our ancestors carried ... are still being carried ... even through all of the struggles, even through all of what has been disrupted … we can still hear the voice of the land. We can hear the care and love for the children. We can hear about our law. We can hear about our stories, our governance, our feasts, [and] our medicines... We have work to do. That work we are [already] doing as [Aboriginal] peoples. Our relatives who have come from across the water [non-Aboriginal people], you still have work to do on your road...The land is made up of the dust of our ancestors’ bones. And so to reconcile with this land and everything that has happened, there is much work to be done ... in order to create balance.”

The City will use the following relevant principles from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a compass in all our work:

1

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.

2

First Nations, Inuit, and Méti s peoples, as the original peoples of this country and as self-determining peoples, have Treaty, constitutional, and human rights that must be recognized and respected.

3

Reconciliation is a process of healing relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.

4

Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal peoples’ education, cultures and languages, health, child welfare, administration of justice, and economic opportunities and prosperity.

5

Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and nonAboriginal Canadians.


Opportunities SOME IDEAS ALREADY BEING CONSIDERED INCLUDE: • Communicate publicly the discussions and outcomes from the government-to-government meetings that take place between the City and the Indigenous Governments based in Yellowknife •E stablish an Elder-in-Residence program at the Yellowknife Public Library •C reate a sacred space for ceremonies in/around Somba K’e Park • Expand recreational and cultural opportunities which have an Indigenous lens through City facilities and City programming • Develop a strategy to increase the number of Indigenous people who work for the City •L obby the Federal and Territorial Governments to institute TRC Recommendation #82:

6

All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.

We call upon provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities. Expand the opportunities for City Staff to be culturally aware and to create culturally safe spaces in programs and services

What’s Next? The City wants to meaningfully engage Indigenous governments, partners and all Yellowknife residents in advancing the important work towards reconciliation within our community. To advance this, the City plans to do the following: •O ver the summer, the City will take the initial Starting a Conversation document out to the public for feedback through meetings and gatherings, and will also welcome any written comments from individuals and organizations

7

The perspectives and understandings of Aboriginal Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers of the ethics, concepts, and practices of reconciliation are vital to long-term reconciliation.

8

Supporting Aboriginal peoples’ cultural revitalization and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, oral histories, laws, protocols, and connections to the land into the reconciliation process are essential.

9

Reconciliation requires political will, joint leadership, trust building, accountability, and transparency, as well as a substantial investment of resources.

10

• The City will compile feedback received and use it to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan (Fall 2019) • The City will implement, monitor and continue to use the Reconciliation Action Plan as a living document (Winter 2020 and beyond)

Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian society.


BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS:

A Conversation with Mayor Rebecca Alty. of working together through respectful relationships. We set the tone from the top. To help build those relationships the City is developing a Reconciliation Action Plan, so that there will be a living document to use as a guide going forward. It won’t be a document that sits on the shelf and collects dust -- it will be a document referred to when working with Indigenous people, governments, businesses. WHY? Rebecca was born and raised in Yellowknife – in Chief Drygeese Territory within the Akaitcho Territory. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THE CITY HAS HAD A POSITION LIKE THE INDIGENOUS RELATIONS ADVISOR? Yes. It’s history-making. The City’s Indigenous Relations Advisor supports the City’s work towards reconciliation by providing guidance on how we can actively enhance access and inclusion for Indigenous peoples in City services and civic life; facilitates the development of a reconciliation action plan; and develops networks and supports relationship in order to strengthen working relationships and enhance the inclusion of Indigenous peoples, cultures and ways of work within our programs, services and strategies. WHAT’S COUNCIL’S ROLE? Council supports reconciliation with Indigenous persons and we continue to explore new ways

Reconciliation is a core value of Council. As the Capital, we are a crossroads for Indigenous peoples and groups from across the north. Our community has a large Indigenous population representing all areas of the Northwest Territories and beyond - about 24% of City residents are Indigenous. Reconciliation starts with building relationships. Successful relationships are built on mutual trust and respect. To build these relationships we need to listen to each other — and the City is hoping to hear from as many people as possible so we can ensure the City’s Reconciliation Action Plan represents our community. WHAT IS THE CITY HOPING TO DO WITH STARTING THE CONVERSATION? We’re hoping to generate conversations with people about how they see reconciliation happening in Yellowknife. One person may say, well we want to see more languages

being spoken, or someone else may say we want to see more traditional street names or place names. Others might say ‘Oh my gosh this is about time. It’s great and we want to see other municipalities do this.’ I’m going to be attending most of the coffee breaks and I hope to engage with residents and have conversations about what reconciliation means to them. YOU’RE HOPING FOR AS INCLUSIVE RESPONSES AS POSSIBLE? Exactly. The City is on Chief Drygeese territory and home to Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents. We want to hear from all residents to ensure our Reconciliation Action Plan is as inclusive as possible. SOME OF THOSE VIEWS MAY LEAD TO PRETTY UNCOMFORTABLE DISCUSSIONS. That’s right. And that’s good. People are coming forward already and they’re asking why the City is discussing this when it should just be taking care of municipal services like roads and water and sewer. But reconciliation needs to be a part of how we govern, how we interact with residents and visitors, how the City engages people. And that can raise some challenging situations. We don’t have all the answers, but by talking openly, honestly and respectfully, we can find a way forward that works for all of Yellowknife. Honesty can take us to a place where we may be uncomfortable. People may be indifferent, or angry, or frustrated – but we need to work through all of those emotions on the path to reconciliation.


GAMBLE ON BUSINESS

in something like the stock market, Yellowknifers can direct a bit of their savings towards a smart, local investment that improves their city.

GRASSROOTS CITIZEN DEVELOPERS Solving YK’s rental shortage, one homeowner at a time by SAM GAMBLE Rent is too high in Yellowknife, and it’s a supply problem. How can there be such high incomes waiting for landlords, but only one purpose-built rental development has been added to the Yellowknife rental stock in the last six years? It seems like such a promising window of opportunity, both for landlords and for renters, but unseen factors keep the two from meeting. Luckily, Yellowknife has some exciting options to solve the problem – and all homeowners can take part. To understand the big picture, it’s useful to think of the real estate market as the interaction of two separate markets. The first is the space market. Vacancy rates, population growth – the supply and demand for physical space. But to drive an increase in the supply of new rental units, the capital market – supply and demand for real estate investment dollars – is just as important. If we want to see more affordable rental housing built, we need to increase the supply of money ready to invest in building new rental properties. We’ve been waiting for southern money to show up and build new rental housing, with little success. Maybe it’s time to put local money to use and solve our own problem. Three years ago, after attending a conference in Vancouver, my business partner Rob Warburton began talking about a concept called Citizen Developer. The idea is elegantly simple. While large developments take a lot of money, planning and time and only happen occasionally, in spurts, individual property owners can add new rental units through the relatively new bylaws allowing laneway housing. If you have a backyard, you can do your part by putting in a mini-home and renting it out. In fact, if over the past six years, just 0.1 percent of Yellowknife homeowners had added a rental suite each year, Citizen Developers would have added more new rental units to the market (29) than all the major landlords combined (24). It’s the crowd-sourcing approach to building rental stock. It’s also a great local economic development opportunity for Yellowknifers. Rather than investing all their savings

However, before we can unleash the potential of our Citizen Developers, we need to solve two issues: development costs and the secondary suite financing problem. A new bachelor apartment would rent for about $1,250 per month. About one third of that rent would be used to cover operating costs, leaving $833 a month or $10,000 a year in rental income. What return do Yellowknifers need to consider investing in local rental properties? The answer turns out to be about 7.5 percent – we can expect Citizen Developers to become landlords if they can build a laneway house for less than $133,000 ($10,000 divided by 7.5 percent). This is where the various levels of government can play a key role. What requirements and costs will be placed on our Citizen Developer? Safety, energy efficiency standards, landscaping, neighbourhood fit, aesthetics, water and sewer lines, parking, permitting costs, design, etc. – these requirements are all done with the best intentions, but each extra requirement has a cost. An extra $10,000 in costs means the landlord now needs to collect an additional $62.50 in rent per month to cover the extra cash outlay. That might not sound like much money, but that’s a 7.5 percent reduction in profits to our Citizen Developer: enough to kill a project. So the big picture policy question we need to ask ourselves is: what requirements can regulators bend on in exchange for affordable rental housing to the market? Banks currently don’t finance secondary structures, so our Citizen Developer needs to come up with $133,000 in cash rather than a more manageable $27,000. By reducing the cash requirements for laneway houses, the number of Citizen Developers will explode. Here the City or GNWT could help as well. The City could begin allowing front/back lot subdivisions and bare-land condos so the secondary suite is on its own financeable land (something the City is considering). The Housing Corporation could provide transferable second mortgages for laneway houses. I believe there’s an overwhelming interest from Yellowknifers to invest in their own community and help solve the affordable rent issue. Let’s put in the final effort needed to make it happen. Let’s start a grass-roots revival of our rental stock. Sam Gamble is a managing director of CloudWorks Adventure Capital, a Yellowknife-based real estate investment company. His column aims to explore the second and third order economic effects of decisions facing the North. August 2019

37


38 EDGEYK ANGELA GZOWSKI PHOTOGRAPHY


OLD TOWN VERSIFIER

Why I don’t eat spaghetti by ANTHONY FOLIOT

What’s that you say? You want me to tell you a story about when I was young, tough and ready? A dinner time story of wild adventure that explains why I don’t eat spaghetti?

Ok.

On the edge of the lake where a river runs swift from up in the Barrens, t’was called the Snowdrift. In the heart of God’s country and I swear it’s the truth, it harkens me back to a tale of my youth. I was passing the summer in an old tent frame when along came my friends who called out my name. We’re going to Fort Reliance they said, we won’t be staying there long, but grab your gear and get yourself ready, you should come along. So away we went in an old leaky boat with only a fifteen horse kicker, with a box of grub, and a box of beer, and a couple of bottles of liquor. We crossed through Pearson’s Point and then, down the Wildbread way, over a tiny hump of land and then on down McLeod’s Bay. It took quite a while to motor along, then we found ourselves in a fix because we had only one jerry can left, but we had no more oil to mix. We could see clear enough where we wanted to be, eight miles from Police Bay shores, so we buckled down for a pretty long row, with a couple of homemade oars. Dip pull, dip pull, Yes, we were travelling pretty darn slow, then we saw a boat, coming our way, it was Roger, he gave us a tow. Now I can’t rightly remember what happened next, but I know we had drank all the beer, and when we got through all of that rum, my buddy had got an ide’er. It turned out the lodge had a plane coming out, to re-supply the camp the next day, he said we needed to get more booze, and he said he knew just the way. So the next day him and his wife they left, they said if I got impatient August 2019

39


Courtesy of: Mark Smith Chrismar Mapping Services Inc.

I could always go and drink with the boys who worked at the weather station. I forget their names except for Old Sam, who made us jolly and glad, We drank and drank, and laughed a lot, oh yes! The great times we had! But, you know how it goes with drink, eventually you have no more, so I wobbled back to the boat I was using and crossed to the other shore. There in the cabin were some folks I knew, they had moved in while I was away, and there on the floor was a box of homebrew, that they made just yesterday. Still warm and yeasty, the raisins were plump, floating in every cup, and you had to use your teeth like a strainer so you could drink it up. Now warm homebrew is not Old Sam, they really don’t compare, So I grabbed my blanket and went to

40 EDGEYK

sleep, I left them drinking there. But not everybody is jolly and glad when drinking’s the name of the game, and somehow the drunker that these guys got, the meaner they became. There was the guy with the leftover raisins spilling onto my bed, so I jumped up, as mad as can be, and I punched him in the head. I’m a peace-loving guy, but I’m no slouch when it comes to fisticuffs, Yes we danced around, toe to toe, me and one of those toughs. The battle turned out to be not so epic, when the wind fell out of his sail, then I grabbed my stuff and left those guys, for the next cabin just down the trail. Next morning old Grandpa woke me up, with a nudge and a bit of a shake. He asked me if I’d like to go with him to visit Artillery Lake. So, I didn’t feel like sticking around,

those guys next door would be there, I shoved all my stuff in an old fur bag, and we left with little fanfare. Well actually we just went around the point, picked up Granny and four granddaughters; Then we made our way down Charlton Bay on the placid and mirror like waters. Now we got to a beach and unloaded the boat, ‘Where’s Artillery Lake?” I said. “You’ll carry this kicker and this jerry can, it’s a ways up this trail ahead.” So I’m packing a kicker and a full jerry can but I’ve still got my fur bag to carry, And I’m climbing, climbing, up a steep trail, but it’s a long, long way to Lake Harry. Ok, half way up, we stop and make camp, with dry-meat, bannock, and tea. But the portions, that Granny doled out, weren’t nearly enough for me. Next morning we’re up and at ‘em, after a bit of a snack, continued on p. 42


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nd I’m trudging along with the A motor and gas and an old fur bag on my back. And now we get to Harry Lake, where Grandpa had an old freight canoe, In jumped Granny and those four girls, Grandpa gave me the runthrough. “Well,” he said, “you see there’s no room, with those girls and all of this gear. But way down the lake, can you see that point? How ‘bout I meet you there?” Oh, ok, so I have to walk, while you guys get to float down the lake, then I wished I had some better shoes, Grandpa gave me a gun to take. (in case of bears, he said) Finally after a couple of miles, at the end, Grandpa’s waiting for me. And I carried the canoe on the next portage, after a stop for some tea. But just a little bit of meat, and there’s no more jam for the bread; then Grandpa points out another point, it looks like a long slog ahead. So off they go down French Lake and I’m to follow along the shore, But there’s lots of rocks and a bunch of trees, and I can’t see them no more. Well, I got a little bit turned around, so up the esker I went. I ran along the top of it, ‘til at last I saw grandpa’s tent. “Where were you?” he scolded me, “We’ve been sitting here on this shore, we’ve already had our dinner you see, there’s only a little bit more.” Next morning I woke up, tired and cold, to a repast of bannock and tea, and then I walked beside Acres Lake, wished I had a compass with me. Yes, that’s right, I got lost again, I’d never been here before. So I climbed up yet another esker, I ran on top once more. Finally I get to the next portage, where they were waiting for me. I have to carry the sodden canoe,

42 EDGEYK

my reward was dry-meat and tea. I walked the west side of Kipling Lake, cause that’s what I had to do, I used a couple pieces of string to hold together my shoes.

“Holy smokes,” he said to me, “what are You doing here?” “I’m travelling with Grandpa and Granny,” I said, “I helped him haul all this gear.”

At the end of Kipling Lake the portage, seemed a little bit longer, ‘cause the old canoe was heavy and wet, I wished that I was stronger. But no, back and forth I hauled across gear, my body is one big ache. Then after another quick and light meal, I walked the length of Burr Lake.

“You don’t know him like I do,” he said, “you’ll be stuck here ‘til after freeze-up. You’ll work like a dog, ‘til you’re all worn out, even though you’re yet like a pup. You don’t know what he’s capable of, he’ll keep you here a long time. He’s kidnapped you, and he’ll work you hard, can’t you see that this is a crime?”

To another portage, and more stuff to haul, over a height of land, On Toura Lake, when they set out, I cinched in my waistband. I walked on down to the next portage spot, enjoying the wonderful view. Then we had a snack of some drymeat; once more I hauled the canoe. But Thankfully it wasn’t that far, to a small lake without a name Grandpa and I stashed that canoe, and here came a change in game. Just one more portage was all that was needed, as I followed in their wake, and then we found Grandpa’s old tin boat on the shore of Artillery Lake. We launched and loaded that old boat, and I finally got a bit of a rest But the waves were big and the wind was bigger blowing from the NorthWest. So Grandpa he put ‘er onto the shore, before it got out of hand; then he asked me, because I was a novice, if I had yet paid the land. Uh no, I said, a little unsure, then Grandpa he got real mad. So then I went down to the water’s edge, gave the last of tobacco I had. And just like that the wind died down, we resumed our bon voyage, we cruised along the west shore till we got to the Rat Lodge. Well I never saw the Rat there, I never saw a lodge… B ut standing there beside his plane was Roger in camouflage.

Well gee, I never thought of that, I wished I’d known in advance. So after a spot of bannock and tea, we flew on back to Reliance. There down the trail from Fairchild Point was that cozy little shack, I could tell from the chimney smoke that my buddies had come back. “You’re just in time,” they said to me, “our dinner we just ate.” It was homemade caribou spaghetti and sauce, so I loaded up my plate. “Holy Moly that was great!” “Have some more,” they said to me. And when that was finished I couldn’t resist, and went for plate number three! Now I hadn’t thought of my arduous travels, or the meagre diet I had, and I should have known that my stomach had shrunken, I swelled up my belly real bad. So I lay on the bunk, all pasta bloated, while my pals they made fun of me… And that is why, to this very day, that I don’t or won’t eat spaghetti.


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NWT ARTS ARTIST’S CORNER

Taking Care Mary Louise Drygeese’s stunning embroidery piece for the new hospital is full of craftmanship, content, and care by SARAH SWAN

THE REASONS PEOPLE make art are incredibly varied. Some create as a form of self-expression. For others, art-making is an intellectual pursuit – a study of technique, form or colour. Some create simply because they must – it is as essential to life as eating or sleeping. Mary Louise Drygeese is different. The word that characterizes her craft is care. Through her sewing, the 82-year-old elder cares for others. Her art is about service.

Mary Louise has lived near or around Dettah her entire life, and is dedicated to caring for her community. As a girl, she helped care for her siblings, and when her father, Joe Sangris, was chief of Dettah, it was her job to provide hospitality to his steady stream of visitors. In 1999, she shared a memory

with Northern News about her youngest brother Eddie clinging to her dress as she tried to serve her father’s guests. "I didn't know what to do with him so I locked him in the cupboard until I finished the dishes. He calmed right down. Boy, that was that funny." Mary Louise raised seven children of her own and has helped in the raising as many grandchildren. For 27 years, she worked as a nursing assistant, visiting the sick, holding infants while they got their needles, translating Dogrib into English. Through it all, she sewed and beaded, achieving the highest level of craftsmanship. She made countless mukluks and moccasins, always giving them away. She beaded traditional patterns on moosehide she tanned herself, or on wool stroud. These days, Mary Louise prefers embroidery. “Embroidery is easier when you’re old,” she laughs. “I’m slow at beading now. All my girls and grandkids are better than me!” Recently, the new Stanton Territorial Hospital commissioned Mary Louise to create a piece for their walls. After a year of work, she completed one of her most stunning embroidery pieces yet. On a fresh white background, sprigs of flowers radiate from a sequined centre line. “I thought and thought,” said Mary Louise.

Mary Louise with a pair of her moosehide and rabbit mukluks with beautiful embroidery on white stroud.

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“I thought about those doctors and nurses working hard to care for everyone. So I made 24 flowers – one for each hour of the day, for the long shifts and hours on the clock. Pink flowers for the women, blue for the men.” The piece is remarkable – not only does it pay homage to professions of care, but it is traditional, expressive, and intellectual all at the same time. Learn more about the story of Mary Louise's artwork at nwtarts.com/artist-profile/ mary-louise-drygeese

Above: Traditional Embroidery artwork Mary Louise was commissioned to make for the new Stanton Territorial Hospital. Left: Mary Louise's beaded purses are sold at the Yellowknives Dene Artisan Shop in Dettah.

Connect with artists and learn Where to Buy NWT Art at nwtarts.com


A sell-out crowd at the Top Knight watches painters battle it out.

The Battle of the Brushes Art Battle was born in New York City in 2001. Today it produces a global tournament with more than 200 events in Canada and the U.S. alone each year – including Yellowknife! Photos and story by NICOLAS SERVEL A CANVAS FRAME on an easel. Acrylic paint. Brushes, palette knives or any other non-mechanical implements. Twenty minutes. Those are the tools and the rules. GO!

Michael Fatt had 20 minutes to paint a winning canvas. He'll represent the NWT at the Art Battle Canadian finals in Toronto later this year. He represented the NWT at the Canadian Art Battle finals in Toronto in July.

Bent forward with a furrowed brow and a focused hand, the painters begin to mix the colors, dip their bristles and spread it over that blank space. Headphones on or grooving around to the good mix of the trackmaster, kneeling on the ground or standing strong, visions are coming alive. Difficult to see at first glance, what is it going to be? Rapidly, the crowd starts swirling around the artists to get a better sight of the emerging colourful shapes. They will vote and decide which of the brush warriors will get to the next round of the Art Battle. It’s hot, it’s exciting, the Top Knight is bustling. After two nights of a tight showcase of talent from 20 artist participants, Katherine Raymond and Michael Fatt were the chosen winners. They battled it out June 11th at the Farmer’s Market, where Fatt was victorious. The Chipewyan Dene member of the Lutselk’e First Nation represented the Northwest Territories in the Art Battle Canadian finals in Toronto on July 25th.

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