African, French and Japanese Groups Showcase Their Culture

They are not always featured in history books, but since the Klondike Gold Rush people of many ethnic backgrounds have called the Yukon home.

On Sunday, June 23 the Adäka Cultural Festival will host the Sharing Our Spirit Community Celebration, a day of events bringing together the culture of these different groups that have put down roots in the territory.

“Everything that day is free to the public,” says Caili Steel, who has been the festival’s associate producer since it began in 2011. “It’s a really good opportunity to get everyone out, and a way to chat with people you wouldn’t meet in your everyday life.”

A large, free feast will kick off the Sharing Our Spirit Community festivities at noon at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre (KDCC), on Whitehorse’s waterfront. Steel expects 400 people will partake in the buffet-style meal.

“Yukon College, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is doing the cooking for us through its Culinary Arts program,” she says.

The menu will likely feature traditional meat from the area, bannock bread, salads, and dessert. Christian Pritchard, a top celebrity chef from Toronto, will also be involved.

“This is really exciting, as he has a strong interest in traditional First Nations food,” Steel says.

The feast will be followed at 1 p.m. by a series of Yukon First Nations performances on the Kwanlin Dun main stage and other ethnic groups will be showcasing elements of their culture, too.

Festival-goers can take in a Japanese tea ceremony and Bon Odori folk dance put on by the Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon, a fire dancing workshop by L’Association Franco-Yukonaise, and performances by Leonard Boniface of the Yukon African Caribbean Association.

“We’ve always invited other groups (to attend),” Steel says, “but this year we wanted to take it a step further and actually incorporate these other cultural groups into our programming.”

To close the day, a huge drumming circle will start around 5 p.m. just outside the KDCC.

Last year nearly 200 people from across the North took part, drumming and teaching their dances to the crowd.

Steel says it is just about having fun, and invites anyone with a drum to take part.

“Whether your drum’s African-style, Scottish-style or First Nations, we want you there,” she says. “There won’t be a leader — the songs will just happen organically.”

Steel says it will be, “a day of celebration, of gathering together with the First Nations community at a gorgeous place by the Yukon River. I hope everyone comes out— even if it’s just to watch.”

The Sharing Our Spirit Community Celebration day takes place on Sunday, June 23 during the Adäka Cultural Festival at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre. The feast begins at noon, events take place through the day and the drum circle starts at 5 p.m.

For more information go to or contact Caili Steel at [email protected], (867) 667-7698. People are invited to bring their potlatch bags to the feast, but compostable dishes will be available.

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