Owen MacDonald was on hand to greet Däch’äw in Whitehorse

In true Yukon fashion, the anticipated arrival of the Whitehorse 2020 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) mascot was delayed a few days.

“They’re definitely living on Yukon time,” said George Arcand, president of the 2020 AWG Host Society. 
Däch’äw flew back from Mascot University in Calgary earlier this month, making their debut in front of local media, members of the host society, and mascot sponsor Northwestel. Däch’äw was also greeted by 12-year-old Owen MacDonald, the young artist who inspired the mascot’s creation. 

MacDonald won a Yukon-wide contest, as his porcupine illustration was chosen from nearly 40 entries depicting suggested mascots for the Games. Däch’äw, which is a Southern Tutchone word for porcupine, is “formidable on one side, like Yukon athletes, and warm and cuddly on the other, like Yukon hosts.”

“We had so many creative and fun submissions from youth in the territory,” said Moira Lassen, general manager of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games. “They really used their imaginations to come up with mascots that represented the spirit of the Games, as well as the spirit of the North. Our mascot selection committee had a very difficult decision, but, in the end, Däch’äw was a clear winner.”

The mascot contest was open to all Yukon youth ages 8 to 18. Entries were voted on by a mascot selection committee, based on a number of criteria. The mascot had to be an original creation that was culturally relevant to the North. Youth were also asked to submit a brief story behind their creation. For his winning illustration, MacDonald will receive special guest accreditation at the 2020 AWG, tickets to the opening ceremonies, merchandise and a set of pins.

Däch’äw and MacDonald became quick friends as they met for the first time at the mascot’s debut press conference, displaying their excitement for the cameras. Tammy April, Northwestel’s vice-president of consumer markets, joked that she was being upstaged.

“For a porcupine, you sure are a ham,” said April, who went on to announce a significant contribution by the company. Northwestel committed $257,000 of cash and in-kind support for the 2020 AWG, including sponsorship of the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the mascot.

Now that Däch’äw is back in the territory, the mascot will go to work as an ambassador for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games. They helped launch AWG’s first Games Day Friday event on Sept. 13. They will follow that up with the Däch’äw on the Top of the World tour. This community tour will make stops in Yukon and Alaska communities while travelling the Top of the World and North Klondike highways, allowing Däch’äw to interact with students and promote participation in the Games.

If you’re interested in having Däch’äw visit your school or community business, visit awg2020.org to fill out a request form.

The 2020 Arctic Winter Games will be held in Whitehorse from March 15 to 21.