Myth and Medium Returns to Dawson

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH) Heritage department is reviving its Myth and Medium program during the week of February 21 to 23.

The program ran for two years, in 2003 and 2004. Then, as organizers Jackie Olsen, Jodi Beaumont and Sue Parsons recalled when we sat down to chat about it last week, it simply got too big for them to handle at the time.

They kept putting off the next event in spite of popular demand.

From its conception – a small gathering in the slow month of February to discuss matters of enduring cultural interest and compare notes – the project ballooned to an event that draws people from all over the territory.

The Athabaskan clothing pattern making workshop at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre during Myth and Medium 2003. Jackie Olson (left) shows the late Annie Henry (right) a quill worked dress from the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. PHOTO: Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Heritage Department

While they were pleased with the response to the original event, and even more pleased when people from outside the community indicated a desire to know about the next one well in advance, so they could work it into their calendars and budgets, that very success caused the project to be put on hold for eight years.

At the time, Sue Parsons, TH collections manager, recalls the department was still defining how it wanted to work.

Besides that, heritage director Jackie Olsen points out it rapidly became clear there really weren’t any slow months in Dawson anymore.

Beaumont, TH traditional knowledge specialist, agreed. They just didn’t have time to handle it.

However, Myth and Medium is back now, with a busy schedule that involves two full days and an evening.

The reception on the evening of Tuesday, February 21, will be highlighted by the Hän Singers, and presentations by Old Crow’s Tammy Josie and Dawson’s Angie Joseph-Rear, as well as a talk by special guest Julie Cruikshank entitled “The Afterlife of Stories”.

Cruickshank is well-known for her books and scholarship on the storytelling of Yukon First Nations women.

Half of Wednesday morning will be a sharing session with community partners, including presentations by Laura Mann, Dawson City Museum director, Carrie Docken, from Klondike National Historic Sites, and Mary Jane Moses, Vuntut Gwichin.

The other half includes a tea talk with Fran Morberg Green, and a roundtable coffee break with heritage professionals.

The afternoon will be full of hands-on events. There is the chance to try moose hair tufting, beading, jigging, and making dry meat, fish hooks and spruce flour.

The evening will feature a presentation of films, including some from the TH archives, one created by Dawson kids, and several from students in Old Crow.

Thursday is a day for lectures. With the overall theme of “We’ve Got Something to Tell You About”, Julie Cruikshank will talk about the Pat Lindgren and Mark McLeod story project.

David Neufeld will discuss the International Polar Year project that he worked on with TH. And Sue Parsons will speak about lessons in dealing with accidental discoveries of human remains within TH territory, as highlighted by the findings during the excavations for Dawson’s wastewater treatment plant.

In mid-morning there will be a Hän rap challenge led by Erika Scheffen and Georgette McLeod.

If weather permits, the afternoon will be spent outdoors for storytelling around a bonfire, led by Erika Scheffen and Kylie Van Every in an event called “Out the Door and Into Storyland”.

Dinner that night will be a traditional feast prepared by the TH men, with more music from the Hän Singers and a fiddle dance with music provided by Ben Chuck and others.

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