Ron Chambers, Ellen Bielawski and Joanna Lilley on location for As the Ice Melts: Voices from Kluane at Àłsêxh Meadow

As the Ice Melts allows Yukon authors to share their work through video

It’s all Joanna Lilley’s fault if you ask Ellen Bielawski. If Lilley hadn’t released Endlings last year, a collection of poetry about extinct animals, Bielawski wouldn’t have come up with As the Ice Melts.

“I was appalled that all of her launch events had to be cancelled due to COVID and I thought it would be amazing to create a project that allowed her to share her work in landscapes where extinction threatens,” says Bielawski, who was inspired to the project by a combination of Lilley’s book and by hearing Champagne and Aishihik Chief Steve Smith speak about the fish weir at Klukshu Village (Smith said there used to be so many salmon, people could hear them coming. These days, their numbers are greatly reduced).

As the Ice Melts is a project that takes the form of two videos which present stories and poetry on the theme of our changing environment. The work has been put together by Bielawski, Lilley and Champagne and Aishihik First Nations storyteller, Ron Chambers.

The videos were shot in locations in Kluane that are currently undergoing changes connected to climate change, including Łù’àn Män (the south shore of Kluane Lake) and Àłsêxh (Alsek) Meadow.

In the videos, Bielawski shares fiction and nonfiction written as a response to climate change and retreating glaciers; Lilley reads poems from Endlings about extinct northern species; and Chambers shares stories about the land and his cultural history inspired by the two locations.

Yukon filmmaker Marten Berkman also recorded the two events and is using the footage for a virtual reality project.
The project was funded by a digital originals microgrant, an initiative set up by the Canada Council for the Arts as a response to the pandemic to help creators share work online.

Lilley says the grant came at a time when opportunities to share work and connect with audiences have been diminished, thanks to the pandemic. She says she’s grateful to the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, the Kluane First Nation and White River First Nation for allowing them to record on their traditional territories and share the video so people know how special the locations are.

Performers, supporters and crew for As the Ice Melts: Voices from Kluane at Łù’àn Män. PHOTOS: Patti Flather

Joanna Lilley feels most herself when she’s writing