Adäka Cultural Festival: Celebrate First Nations Culture

Take some time off work – that’s the only way you’ll be able to enjoy all the programming offered by the Adäka Cultural Festival this month.

That’s the suggestion from Lynn Feasey, director of arts for Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association, which hosts the festival each year.

Feasey is joking, but, looking at Adäka’s schedule, it would be easy to take her seriously.

The festival, which takes place June 30 to July 6, has a packed program, with events and activities scheduled throughout the day and into the night.

Some days, such as Caribou Day (Tuesday, July 4), programming begins at 9 a.m. It features a caribou head roast at the fire pit, followed by a 10:15 a.m. screening of the film Being Caribou. This 2004 Canadian film includes locations shot in Old Crow.

The Adäka Cultural Festival, which was nominated by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada for a 2015 Cultural Tourism Award, features Indigenous artists working in various media from all 14 Yukon First Nations. This includes musicians, dancers, storytellers, carvers, sculptors, painters, and more. Some will perform or ply their trades during the festival; others will lead workshops and exhibit during demonstrations. It also features national and international guests including New Zealand’s Te Arawa Waka group, (master carver Lyonel Grant, Ngati Pikiao, and Te Arawa Waka have designed and carved a dugout canoe, which will be cloaked in Maori clothing).

Together, these dozens of artists offer seven days of performances that highlight collaboration, development, mentorship and cultural revitalization. This takes the form of everything from concerts and workshops, to dancing and demonstrations.

Everything, with the exception of most of the workshops and a handful of evening concerts, is free to attend.

“We want this to be a community event that everyone can enjoy and learn from,” says Feasey.

This year, as it has for the last five years, Adäka takes place at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre downtown – both inside and outside.

“It’s a really unique opportunity for someone to come and experience Indigenous culture in a really beautiful setting down on the river,” says Feasey.

There will be three ticketed music shows during the festival. Celeigh Cardinal and Jay Gilday take the mainstage Monday, July 3 at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday night, Kevin Barr and Boyd Benjamin, along with the Northern Cree Singers, play the mainstage at 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, July 5, at 8 p.m. the mainstage features Dena Zagi, a Kaska band from Ross River, and Ottawa-based duo Twin Flames, who sing in English, French and Inuktitut.

All other concerts are free. So are the youth workshops, including contemporary Tlingit designs with Megan Jensen (Tuesday, July 4 at 11 a.m.) and kids cartooning with Blair Thorson (Thursday, July 6 at 1 p.m.)

“The workshop schedule is fantastic,” says Feasey, noting the non-youth workshops fill up quickly.

A full schedule is available online, complete with prices for the more than 40 available workshops.

Feasey says the most popular are usually the beading workshops, such as a four-hour class on beaded keychains with Elizabeth Kyikavichik and a daylong class on beaded card holders with Lena Sanford.

There’s also a Qiviut cleaning and spinning workshop with Lena Wolkie that should be popular, as well as a five-day workshop on making a ravenstail pouch with Lily Hope.

Registration for these is open online until June 29. After that, it’s done onsite during the festival.

Finally, Feasey says the closing day of the festival will be a can’t-miss opportunity, particularly because of a special boat launch.

Throughout June, four boat-builders and their assistants have been working to build four boats including a birchbark canoe, moose skin boat, skin qayak and a dugout canoe. The boats will be present at the festival, where participating artists will adorn them.

On Thursday, July 6, the boats will be launched on their maiden voyage down the Yukon River.

After a special ceremony to send them off, there will be Dene hand games, a community feast and a presentation on regalia.

More information on all events can be found online at

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