Literature in the Kluane Country

Kluane Country has long inspired writers. Three such writers will be doing readings in Haines Junction and Whitehorse on May 17 to 19. Whitehorse writer David Thompson set his adventure novel Haines Junction in the community; Haines Junction author Elisabeth Weigand wrote memoirs about Kluane pioneer Mabel Brewster; and Ottawa, Ontario writer Claudia Coutu Radmore, who returns to the region after a 20 year absence.

Radmore will read from her non-fiction book Arctic Twilight and Canada’s Changing Landscape, an account of the life of Leonard Budgell (1917-2000) who travelled the width and breadth of the North in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

“Budgell was recognized as a primary source on the North and there are 17 hours of oral history in the Hudson’s Bay Archives taped by Jocelyn McKillop,” she says.

A chance meeting between Radmore and Budgell was the beginning of many conversations and letters as the small, quiet man shared stories of his life from Fogo Island, off the Labrador coast, to Tuktoyuktuk, NWT.

Those letters followed Radmore through her service as a Cuso International volunteer in the South Pacific island country of Vanuatu until she had 7,000 pages of information about the land, people and environment of the North. Arctic Twilight is culled from those letters.

Radmore will read excerpts about Budgell’s time in Tuktoyaktuk. But, she says, “Leonard wrote about so many things.” So, she has indexed the letters so the audience can suggest topics.

“Do they prefer to hear about dogs, boats, caribou, goats, a tame seal, people, ghosts, owls? I’ll read about what interests them.”

Revisting Kluane is a highlight for Radmore. During her first visit she marvelled at children playing outside at midnight. This time she wants to “walk a bit on rocks, look and listen. I want to have time to observe, mollify my yearning, impossible to fulfill, to be a real part of it all,” she says.

Radmore’s guide and co-presenter, Elisabeth Weigand, has lived in Haines Junction for years. Her memoir In Memory of Mabel, recalls experiences horse wrangling with her friend and mentor Mabel Brewster.

In Memory of Mabel is Weigand’s first work in English. Her German-language memoir Yukon River Expedition details her canoe voyage of the length of the river and Sieben Monate Weisse Einsamkeit (Seven Months White Solitude) recounts her winter in northern British Columbia.

David Thompson joins Radmore at the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse on May 19. Thompson’s collection of short stories, called Talking at the Woodpile, is a blend of gossip, fiction and fantasy that makes our colourful population so colourful. His follow-up novel Haines Junction is the story of how Woodpile narrator Joshua ends up in the Junction and later Dawson City to tell the tales of the rambunctious Rock Creek Boys.

Thompson will read from his next novel and a short story called “The Chicken Coup Fire.”

The reading series, sponsored by the Yukon Writers’ Collective Ink and the Writers Union of Canada, will take place on May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Whitehorse Public Library, on May 18 at 7 p.m. at the library in Haines Junction and on May 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse

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