They chose Whitehorse first

I’m sitting on a rock where Lil’s Place will be in about 14,000 years.

I’m thinking about a chocolate shake, but chocolate hasn’t really been invented yet. I’m travelling with some people who have finally made it to the Whitehorse area — where they will stay for a few years.

“Oh, maybe 10 years,” Om says. “This seems like a very transient area.”

Om and his extended family say they came down to Whitehorse from the Tok, Alaska area when the ice sheets started receding.

“It was kind of pretty when the grass and trees came. Of course, we’re following the mammoths. Isn’t everybody?”

It’s true. Mammoths seem to determine where everyone moves these days. And you follow them south if they go south. Most of the predators are moving south with the herd, too.

“Is this a problem?” I ask Juh, who’s five-foot frame belies a pretty strong at-latl arm. He’s known as “Piercer” in his family for his ability to throw a dart straight through the neck of a scimitar cat.

“See, I don’t see it as a problem,” he says. “Cats or mammoth — doesn’t matter which ones I bring home. It’s food. My family even enjoys the little pika we’ve discovered in the rocks here.”

We’re outside on the rock deck of Juh’s home. He’s settled comfortably here on Golden Horn, with a great view of the valley below. His wives and family have adapted to life here in the future city limits.

“I’m hoping we can keep the population down, though,” he says. “I don’t see the area sustaining more than a few families at a time.”

Juh’s first wife, Em, agrees. “We’d like to keep this Yukon valley a secret. I can’t imagine too many more immigrants and newcomers before the culture changes. Last year, it was just us, and then Om’s family moved into the area, too.”

Juh says, “I’m glad that we’re friends. The place is too small to make enemies and burn bridges too fast.”

One of their daughters asks what a bridge is.

“It’s just an expression, Hok,” he tells her.

They like the laid-back atmosphere of the Whitehorse area. “Oh, up north it was always hunt, hunt, hunt,” Em says. “And move, move, move. The pace is so fast. I couldn’t relax. But here –,” she points out toward the lower areas of the valley, “there’s cranberry bushes you wouldn’t believe. I’m actually starting an art career, too. This just wasn’t possible up north.”

She shows me the walls of their home. She’s painted the walls with figures of Yukon animals. Some really stunning work, very Majiski-like, the line work, the colour.

“I’m hoping to market this to the south,” she says.

I can imagine the cost of shipping cave-paintings down south was enormous.

Om, quite a bit taller than the rest of Juh’s family, stands on the deck and points off to a valley beyond the Whitehorse area. “I want to try hunting over there. We saw a moose with a huge record-shattering rack. You can’t get this kind of hunting anywhere else.”

Both families agree. Part of why the Whitehorse area really calls to them, why some of them even resist the idea of moving south again, is the strong outdoors culture.

“People live in the outdoors here. Even families living over in that River Dale area too — they are big outdoorsy people. The culture really supports hunting, outdoor sports, this incredible river —.”

Juh shows me a salmon from a recent catch. “There are plenty of these fish, too. No overfishing like there is in Alaska.”

I ask what Em thinks of the school system. “We home-school mostly. But, hey, if a particle physicist or agronomist comes into the area, we’ll definitely think about having him as a guest speaker. But right now, we cover all the basic subjects: math, biology, storytelling arts, home economics, gym.”

Still, one of the kids, in a quiet moment, when a stunning sunset turns the valley orange, turns to me and asks if I’ve seen a good espresso place. I say I have. But he won’t see it for several thousand years.

“Gee, that’s a long time to wait for a latte.” He looks south. “I wonder if it’s better down there.”

And so it begins …

Jerome Stueart chose this city on purpose. Maybe you did, too. He’d like to hear from you. Write to him at [email protected]


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