Telling stories

Sharon Shorty and I first met back in 2005 when I worked at the Yukon College Library with her awesome husband, Derek Yap. Sharon was born and raised in Whitehorse and is a member of the Teslin Tlingit First Nation. She is a storyteller, beader, regalia maker, wife, playwright, mom, and actor. But what I really wanted to talk with her about today is her thimble collection.

Sharon has been collecting unusual thimbles ever since her grandmother gave Sharon her sewing kit when she lost her vision and could no longer use it. Sharon treasured this gift as she knew how much her grandma had used it and how much it had helped the family throughout the generations. Now Sharon has thimbles made from bone and sealskin, traditional Inuit thimbles, and some antiques from her grandma’s personal collection.

Sharon’s favourite mantra is “do your best.” Her favourite place in the Yukon is Burma Road, off the Klondike Highway 20 minutes from downtown Whitehorse.

Sharon and I just start getting into her current stint as resident aboriginal storyteller at the Vancouver Public Library when she sees a giant raven outside and informs me that she must head outside to practice her raven calls. I’ve been working on my own raven call repertoire since childhood, so I totally get it.

A moment later in walks Gramma Susie! I run over to her and ask her if she’d let me interview her for What’s Up Yukon. She says okay,but that she’s “real busy so we’d better get on with it.”

The first time I met Gramma Susie, Sharon’s alter ego, was at a Frostbite Music Festival in the late 1990’s. Today Gramma Susie tells me a bit about herself. The song she sings the most is “You Are My Sunshine;” the best place she’s ever travelled to for a performance was Alaska; she’s been married 12 times; and her favourite spot is her boyfriend’s house (Colonel Sanders is her “boyfriend,” his house is KFC).

I ask her what she likes to do for fun. She gives me only one answer and that is, “I look for new husbands collecting pension cheques”. As she says this, she awkwardly shifts her chair over to get a better view of the table-full of contenders over my right shoulder.

Just before we wrap up, I ask Gramma Susie if she’d be okay with sharing the article space with Sharon Shorty. Her reply? “Everybody keeps talking about her but I don’t know who she is.”

I take this as a yes.

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