Women of Wisdom drummers perform at the 2017 Folklore Show
The Skookum Jim Folklore Show has become an annual tradition that celebrates First Nation traditions, community and culture. The first Folklore Show was organized by the late Doris McLean, an elder and former chief of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. According to Skookum Jim Recreation Coordinator David Dugas, the original concept came about to help fill a gap.
“Doris McLean originally started it as a showcase for First Nation culture, which was needed in the North,” Dugas said. “There are youth and elder awards that recognize outstanding contributions in the communities.”
The Folklore Show melds the celebration of these award recipients’ achievements with performances by cultural artists who reside in the communities. A committee made up of people involved with Skookum Jim makes the decisions on who to select each year to perform.
This year, the show has adopted a theme of “Revitalization” and is being produced to merge different age groups. There will be traditional food prepared by Teresa Ward and her company, Grandma Treesaw’s Bannock and Catering Services. Also this year, the Masters of Ceremony will once again be regulars Sharon Shorty and Duane Aucoin, as Gramma Susie and Cash Creek Charlie.
“This year, we’ve really aimed to be intergenerational,” Dugas said. “There are three different performances with young children who might not fully know the scope of what they’re involved with, the youth hip hop showcase, and Dena Zagi, who are a well-established group who sing in their traditional language.”
The first performance group will be the Chunday K’anat’a “Flying Eagle” Dancers, a group of young children from Elijah Smith School who are learning traditional Southern Tutchone culture and dances.
The school club has about 100 registered participants, but about 30 children will perform at the Folklore Show on Feb. 17. The program is guided by several leaders who work with them to share their culture.
The Youth Hip Hop Showcase will feature a group of young performers who have been gathering on one Thursday each month at Splintered Craft to develop hip hop techniques and skills. According to Dugas, the group and evenings have been gaining momentum.
“It was envisioned as a way to give a voice to youth because it is important that they have a voice that is theirs,” Dugas said. “They gather and have hip hop battles and live instrumentation. Through that, they’ve put together a group for the show.”
The group is not limited to Whitehorse, added Dugas, noting that youth from Haines Junction are participating as well. There are a number of MCs and one producer, Jeremy Parkin, who produces the instrumentation.
The headline act for the show is Dena Zagi, Ross River musician Dennis Shorty’s band. (Ed note: Dena Zagi is featured in the Sept. 13, 2017 issue of What’s Up Yukon, see below.) Shorty grew up in a family who spoke Kaska and performs in his traditional language. A well-established band, they have cross-generational appeal with their folksy-rock genre of music.
The multi-generational approach ties into their theme. “We are looking to attract more youth,” Dugas explained. “But having the different groups adds to the diversity of the music.”
The second major focus of the show is to recognize and celebrate those individuals who have made a significant contributions to their communities. The Keish Awards are presented each year at the Folklore Show. There are youth and elder categories and this year there will be one youth recipient and two elders, but they won’t be revealed until the evening.
“It’s a platform to recognize individuals doing good work,” Dugas said. “For the elders we have short videos filmed interviewing them and speaking about their work.”
Yukon filmmaker Alan Code does the short films on each individual and they aim to provide an opportunity to hear about the elders’ projects in an informal environment, like their own living rooms. Examples of past winners include Art Johns, the sole winner of an elder award last year. Johns is an elder with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation who negotiated terms for First Nation self-government in their Final Agreement which was signed in 2005.
The Folklore Show is funded through ticket sales and sponsorships and any profit turned would go directly towards programming at the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre. Individuals interested in acquiring tickets or learning more about the show can visit the Yukon Arts Centre website, YukonArtsCentre.com, or visit the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre Facebook page.