Dawson City, Yukon Friday, February 14, 2003

In advertising they say location is everything. Placing a warning about the future of mining right next to a centennial statue honoring the miner is a good example of placement. Photo by Betty Davidson

Feature Stories

Dawsonites Begin Anti-DFO Protest Campaign
Fulda Climbers Hit the Bluff for the Fourth Year
Fulda Contestants Put Their Backs into It
David Neufeld: Peeking into the Treasure Box
Odd Gallery Reaches Out
Miners' Protest Letters

Welcome to the February 14, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 8 photographs and 21 articles that were in the 20 page February 11 hard copy edition.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, the Fraser's Edge and obviously, all the other material you won't find here.

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Dawsonites Begin Anti-DFO Protest Campaign

by Dan Davidson

This newly erected signs warns of dire consequences for the Klondike if DFO has its way. Photo by Dan Davidson

A number of concerned citizens and miners, along with the City of Dawson, are taking a message to the streets.

On January 28 a new sign went up on Front Street, appropriately located next to the bronze statue which was placed there as a Tribute to the Miner just a couple of years earlier.

The large sign warns all citizens of Dawson to pay attention to the recent announcement of new mining regulations by Robert Thibault, the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

This move, says the sign, will effectively destroy the mining industry and lead to the decline of Dawson itself as a year round, full service community. It will, it says bluntly, be the end of a way of life.

Miners Marty Knutson and Tim Coles were joined by local businessman Wayne Rachel in erecting the sign, which had been created by the town's sign painter in the city works building.

It was said Knutson, a coincidence that it was going up the same day that CBC radio and television people were arriving to cover events at the Dänòja Zho Cultural Centre, but it was a good coincidence.

It would have been up sooner, he said, but it was a big job and it took awhile to paint.

"The whole town needs to get behind this," he said.

"We're all affected by this," chimed in Wayne Rachel. "It's not just placer miners."

"This might be to only thing that we can do it this regulation keeps going," Knutson said.

At -24? C he was finding that the batteries on his power drill weren't holding up as well as he had expected as he set screws in the wooden frame.

People were already noticing the sign even as it went up at noon.

"I'll tell you one thing," said Rachel, "it's sure a way to get people to slow down on Front Street. I'm not trying to be flippant, but they are stopping to read it."

At town council the evening before the discussion had revolved around a set of projections put together by treasurer Dale Courtice. Based on an estimated 30% decline in everything - population (and therefore block funding), taxes, other revenue and services - council was faced with the very real possibility that the town actually could go broke once the new regulations came into force. So much for territorial government approved seven year budget projections.

Mayor Glen Everitt noted that the town is working through the Association of Yukon Communities, of which he is president, to coordinate with the Klondike Placer Miners Association and any efforts being made by the territorial government.

Everitt has recently been to Ottawa to lobby on this and other issues, and he said it was clear to him that Thibault wasn't about to change his mind on this issue. Someone would have to change it for him, if that were possible.

On his way home from that trip he sat on a plane with some officials from the DFO, who were talking over the situation in the seat behind him. They were apparently headed to a meeting in Vancouver to deal with this issue. Everitt said he got so steamed over the tone of their discussion that he finally got up, perched on the arm of his seat and had a fairly intense discussion.

Everitt, who is normally a white-knuckle sort of flier (does a lot of air travelling and hates most of it) was still so charged up when he sat down that he didn't even notice the plane was landing until it touched the tarmac.

As he explained to council and the public that night, the battle against this unilateral federal decision has merely begun.


Fulda Climbers Hit the Bluff for the Fourth Year

by Dan Davidson

Crocus Bluff is also a favorite rocking climbing site in the summer, but this is probably a harder challenge. The climber is in the middle of the shot, with camera operators above and below. Photo by Dan Davidson

Crocus Bluff was the place to be for outdoor action on Thursday night as 9 pairs of climbers attempted the ice cliff climb, the sixth event in this year's Fulda Challenge Extreme Arctic Adventure.

All of the contestants and Fulda followers (except the SUV that got nabbed for speeding outside of Whitehorse) made it to Dawson in time for supper at the Downtown Hotel and in time to get ready for the evening's challenge. The tenth team was late getting to the bluff.

For weeks the fire department has been readying the cliff, freezing it in a slightly different place this year to cut down on any permanent damage to the cliff face. Unfortunately for the Fulda climbers the last bit of the ice sheath set in place when the temperature was in the -30s, and the fact that it was only -16? C the night of the climb didn't do anything to soften the ice.

Climbers were hammering their ice axes in with great effort, driving home the toe spikes on their boots, and trying to reach the bell near the top of the cliff within their time limit. It didn't look easy, and it was probably harder than it looked.

The night climb is stark affair, halogen lights casting deep black shadows on every part of the cliff face that isn't brilliantly lit. It looks colder than it is, and the cliff looks more daunting set against the black sky.

Video crews are busy at the bottom and top of the cliff and a roving camera operator hangs from a tether about half way down, shifting his position with each climb to give different camera angles.

The climbers are belayed by ropes to a crew at the bottom of the cliff, and sometimes take advantage of the extra support when the set their boots and axes. When they've struck the bell (and not all manage the climb) they rappel back down the cliff, probably the most enjoyable part of the event for them.

Oddly enough, a climb at this particular location was not part of the original plan. Five years ago the plan was to climb the cliff on the west bank of the Yukon River, from the river itself to a certain point. The next year the river didn't freeze there in time and Crocus Bluff became the substitute climb. It is now one of Fulda's favorite events, and looks really impressive on European television.

Friday events here will include a Car Pull on Front Street in the morning, and an ATV Race on Bonanza Creek in the mid-afternoon. They'll be off to the Tombstones for mountain climbing on Saturday, snowshoeing at the Arctic Circle on Sunday and Kite Surfing in Inuvik on Monday.


Fulda Contestants Put Their Backs into It

by Dan Davidson

The Challenge is ever a media event, and the cameras are always right there. Photo by Dick Van Nostrand

Competitors in the Fulda Car-Pulling contest on Friday morning learned what Dawsonites already know: Front Street can be awfully slippery.

The 7th event in this year's edition of the Fulda Challenge Extreme Arctic Adventure took place right in front of the photogenically restored sternwheeler SS Keno and featured an attempt to move a pair of Toyota RAV 4's between the old CIBC building and the Waterfront Building.

There was anticipation in the pale dawn air as the contestants warmed up strapped on their cleated footwear (looking like a cross between snowshoes and short skis), slipped the toe strap over their shoulders and across their chests and attempted to lurch into motion.

The trick - and quite a trick it was - seemed to be to dislodge the SUVs with a massive effort, and then use a little less muscle to keep them inching forward. It is easier described than done.

In spite of the cheering and encouragement from the red-suited Fulda contingent, contestants found it hard to get a grip on the street, and just as hard to translate that into forward motion. There was much straining and floundering, and quite a few overbalanced near falls. One of the worries had to be falling forward into one of the many video cameras, some of which were often at hardly more than arm's length from the frustrated pullers.

Kerstin Voelck, with Fulda's marketing division, says that most of the men were able to more the vehicles the distance, but that the women weren't.

Most locals found it a bit early to be out watching the event. There was a smattering of high school students and some of the staff from the stores along the street, but this event drew a smaller crowd than the ice climb of the night before.


David Neufeld: Peeking into the Treasure Box

by Dan Davidson

David Neufeld received a beautiful pair of leather mittens as a thank-you for his participation in Myth and Memory week. Now he has something else to remind him of his obligations. Photo by Dan Davidson

David Neufeld has been working with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in first nation on behalf of Parks Canada on and off for the last 12 years. Along the way he has developed a deep affection for the subject of his studies and a sense of obligation for allowing him, as he put it, to learn so much while he was helping.

In his Whitehorse office he has an aluminum coffee pot, a potlatch gift from a gathering in 1998. He says it reminds him of his obligations, and that memory was in his mind's eye while he was preparing his talk for Myth and Medium week here in Dawson.

Neufeld didn't come to pontificate. A talk entitled "Lessons from the Elders - What I hear you saying about Life on the Yukon" is hardly going to be a formal lecture. He called it "kind of a report" on the things he had learned due to the "patient lessons and friendly sharing" of the many people with whom he had come in contact over a dozen years.

One of these things was the concept of culture as a treasure box, a notion he said he was borrowing from elder Percy Henry. In the box there would be heritage stuff, the material evidence of the past, as well as history, the wisdom of the past. Put them together, and there's a good chance to make a future.

Neufeld talked of his personal voyages of discovery in the course of his work. When he got this assignment he decided he would have to learn the land, so he canoed the river, poured over maps and did a lot of reading.

Research has its limits, though, and it was his Mennonite grandmother's anger over a standard history of her own people that made him realize the error that many people make. The history had dealt with dates and government. To his grandmother, however, the story of her people was the story of their relationship with God.

There is a truth in such cultural stories that goes beyond any other truth that might be postulated. He told the story of an Athabaskan elder who, when told of the theory that first nations people migrated here across the Bering Strait and through Beringia tens of thousands of years ago, snorted in disdain. Her people had stories of these others.

"They come over here. They don't got any good clothes. They don't know how to hunt. They're hungry, starving. We killed 'em all. We were always here."

The river, the Yukon River and it's tributaries, is central to Athabaskan story cycles. When those people drew maps of the Yukon, they drew the rivers. When they told their stories of Smart Beaver Man and his journeys, part of the purpose was to tell where all those rivers, creeks and streams came from.

In addition, it could be said that Smart Beaver Man made order out of chaos in the physical world and also established a moral order in the land. In many early stories there are transforming characters who are able to travel back and forth between human an animal shapes in order to keep that awareness alive.

Those stories, and those of Raven, are pretty consistent up and down the river, and Neufeld says his experience is each story always shows a profound sense of how it is related to the place in which it is told. This, in turn, underlines the relationship of the people to the places in which they lived.

He has learned that the stories are intended to entertain, but also to pass on lessons, a sense of the relationship between the people and the land or, as in the First Hunt or First Fish ceremonies, between the people and the animals and fish that inhabit the land with them.

Games, he says, as also about passing on values. He spoke of a dice game called Ten Thousand that he learned one year, and on how the best games were the ones in which the scores were the closest, as if it was best when the luck was shared most equally amongst the players.

In the early life of the Han and other Athabaskan people survival would have depended on sharing: sharing responsibility, sharing good fortune, sharing even the bad times.

Language is also an indicator, Neufeld said. In English most words for directional references are focused on the individual. In Athabaskan languages, they are focused on the land and the flow of the rivers.

"The oral tradition," said Neufeld, "is an expression of (the) will to live as a distinct people in the world." He quoted the writer Robert Bringhurst, who speaks of literature and language being the "animals" which inhabit cultural ecosystems.

"Ultimately ... the way we can continue the heritage - that part of our treasure box - is to make sure that young people get it, that it's passed to them."


Odd Gallery Reaches Out

by Palma Berger

Students from RSS visit the Odd Gallery. Photo by Palma Berger

The winter clothes were piled at one end of the Odd Gallery and a group of little folk were sitting, stretched out, curled up or reclining on the floor in front of the display of "folded" art as the Gallery Curator began his talk. These were sixteen Grade Ones from Robert Service School.

This is part of inviting the youth into the Gallery to experience the art there. The programme is now possible because Curator, Mike Yuhasz is now a permanent, albeit part-time, Curator of the Gallery. No longer does he volunteer his many hours in a sporadic manner. Knowing he has regular hours and a structure of time within which to work he can develop an education programme from the Odd Gallery. He begins with the youth.

The school is involved. Last year there were a few classes over, but this year many more have come. In one day there were three classes visiting. All have thoroughly enjoyed their visits.

Yuhasz got down to the Grade One level as he explained, "This (building) is an art school. Lots of different things happen here." One kid interrupts after gazing around, "It is love art". Yuhasz continued with an explanation about the artist, Elisabeth Belliveau, but there were interruptions from the enthralled audience, "I like that frog." "No, the bird is best." The Curator goes with the flow. "What is that whale made out of?" "Amber sees a swan over here. Does anyone see a different animal?" "Fish. Whale. Pig" came the enthusiastic replies.

What are the animals made out of? This brings replies of "gloves", "socks", "sheets". They haven't missed observing a thing. Each kid is invited to point out which of the animals they loved, or discovered.

Yuhasz elicits from the group the observation that they are not made from new clothing. Where does the artist get this old clothing? Came the replies, "In junk yards. Thrift shop. Homes. At school Lost and Found Box. Free store at the dump." The last one will be a new one to the artist as she came from a city.

Yuhasz involves the children more as he borrows a mitt and invites suggestions as to what it could be made into. The suggestions came back, "Bend it." "It already looks like a dog's head." "Put holes in the material."

How does the artist make these creatures? "By folding, squishing, tying , scrunching, even sewing them." If you could touch them how would they feel? They are invited to walk around the gallery until they find a creature they like, and then to fold, scrunch, twist, squish themselves into that shape becoming as one with the art. He questions the children further. How big are these animals in real life? Answer, "The whale is bigger than this room, so the artist had to squish them up."

All of their senses are being activated here.

Having made them aware of the work on the walls through all their senses, Yuhasz invites them to walk around the room to their favourite piece, and with the paper and crayons distributed draw one of the creatures they like. The results show they have related well to the creatures. Clayton really knows killer whales, and he draws a man on the shore with a shovel ready in case the whale leaping from the water gets out of hand. Stuart has his frog springing from lily pads into the air to snatch the flies hovering above its head. Amber has to get her gloves to twist them into a shape similar to the creature she likes.

After the class reluctantly has left, Yuhasz explains that bringing kids in is part of the mandate of exposing the community to the art. This particular show is imaginative. Kids are always animating objects or giving life to objects so it is a good show for engaging kids. It is really good the way kids talk about art. They look really closely at things to see how much is in the display. He is just trying a really accessible way to talk about art, to break it down to its elements.

He relates his methods of instructing to the age of the group. Older ones were given work sheets with questions and their answers were later discussed. One class proposed to create their own creatures in a similar fashion. The only thing limiting the results would be the kids' imaginations and they did not seem to be lacking in that.

David Curtis did a workshop with the artist with two youth groups using discarded clothing. Altogether with these and the school's classes there have been over 90 kids in nine different groups visiting the gallery this January. Yuhasz says with a grin, this is the best attendance record for January that we have had.

He is planning further art educational programmes. A lot is geared towards having an enjoyable experience at a gallery, at having people comfortable at experiencing art.

He might consider more art appreciation programmes for adults also, talking about the methods of approaching art and talking about art. People find they know more about art than they realize. Also there is a lot more enjoyment in the experience than just looking at it.


Miners' Protest Letters

The decision by the Dept. of Fisheries to do away with the Yukon Placer Authorization has prompted as flood of letters to all the territorial papers. Being a bi-weekly, we can only handle a few of them. Here are some samples from the 3 pages in this issue.

Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Support Miners not Ministers

Honourable Robert G. Thibault
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

Dear Minister Thibault:

The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in would like to add our voice to the chorus of Yukoners asking you to reconsider your decision to phase out the Yukon Placer Authorization (YPA). The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in are the descendants of the Han Indians, who are the people of the river. Our nation has relied on salmon stocks for thousands of years for our basic sustenance and continues to do so. We could never knowingly support an industry that significantly damages those stocks. But we do not believe that placer mining, as it is presently administered under the YPA, is causing significant damage to salmon or other indigenous stocks. if properly observed and enforced, we believe the YPA protects fish.

The Yukon Placer Committee represented a broad cross section of Yukon interests, including First Nation interests. The 2002 review recommended various changes to improve the authorization, including a better procedure for stream classifications and deferrals that recognized First Nations as Governments and identified our interests within our Traditional Territories. This is more than you have done.

We are particularly concerned with your failure to incorporate Traditional Knowledge into your deliberations and your failure to Consult with us prior to rejecting the YPA. This is contrary to the intent of our Agreements and the spirit in which we are trying to work as Governments with Canada and Yukon to manage the resources within our traditional lands. We have to be involved in the decisions that affect our lives. This is what we negotiated and this i~ what Canada has agreed to. We call upon you to fulfill your obligations.

There are serious inconsistencies between the regulations that apply to placer miners and the regulations that apply to other industries, as illustrated by the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations, Meat and Poultry Products Plant Liquid Effluent Regulations, Petroleum Refinery Liquid Effluent Regulations, etc., a11 of which authorize discharges considerably more damaging to fish than those authorized under the YPA. Why does the Yukon Placer industry warrant this special treatment?

An example closer to home is the Yukon Queen 11 tour boat, an ocean going vessel operated by Holland America/Westours on the Yukon River between Dawson and Eagle. for the past fifteen years the Tr'ondek I Hwech'in and local fishermen have raised concerns with DFO officials over the effects of the Yukon Queen's wake on fish stocks. Local observation and the knowledge of our Elders indicate significant mortality among out-migrating Chinook salmon fry, serious interference with Chinook and Churn and salmon fishing operations including loss of fish in nets, and widespread habitat damage along the Yukon River. But your officials scoff at our concerns and do nothing. This past year a scientific study funded by the Yukon River Restoration and Enhancement fund demonstrated that tens of thousands of salmon fry and fresh water fish fry are stranded and destroyed each year by this boat.

Yet you are content to let this boat operate and instead take aim, at our local placer miners. Is this because Holland America/Westours is owned by the Americans: What Is your real intent in presuming to protect our fish?

Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Traditional Territory hosts about 75% of the placer mining in Yukon. If anyone understands the impacts of placer mining it is us. There is no doubt that historic placer mining in the Dawson district wreaked havoc on fish stocks. But times have changed. The Yukon Placer Authorization is a reasonable compromise between the need to protect fish and the need to generate wealth.

Many of our Citizens are placer miners or work in the placer mining industry. Our Economic Development Corporation Chief Isaac Incorporated operates businesses that service and depend upon the placer mining industry. Many of our Settlement lands were selected for placer mining potential. Your decision will have a significant negative impact on our ability to benefit from our Agreements and succeed as a government. Your decision will have a huge economic impact on our Citizens and the community at large We are struggling to cut the chains of government dependence and develop a self-sufficient society. You have dealt that struggle ~ huge blow.

Please reconsider your decision. We urge you to travel to our community and talk to our Elders. Talk to the fishermen and look at placer mining first hand. Evaluate the effects of other industries on the fish stocks you want to protect. Then review the Yukon Placer Authorization and deal with it accordingly.

Attached is a plea from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Elders Council. Please give this due consideration.

We look forward to your timely response.

Yours truly,

Darren Taylor
Chief, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in

Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Elders' Council Supports Mining

We, the First Nation Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Elders' Council would like to send a strong recommendation to all levels of government, that the Yukon Placer Authorization and supporting documents have played a critical role in achieving a responsible balance between protection of the fishery and placer mining through a co-operative resource management approach. The Placer industry has made and continues to make a substantial contribution to the Yukon and Canadian economies. The Honorable Minister Thibault, of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, has unilaterally announced that he will phase out the use of the Yukon Placer Authorization and the present format of the Yukon Placer Committee. We as a First Nation Elders Council, are in strong disagreement, for this action will cause extensive financial and social harm to many communities, businesses families, from the Yukon and will be very devastating to our young Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation citizens, and their families and irreversible damage to our community, which is Dawson City, Yukon.


Members of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Elders' Council

A very high price to pay!

Dear Editor,

In her January 30 letter to the Whitehorse Star, Alice Hartling of the Yukon Conservation Society says not all placer miners are against Fisheries Minister Thibault's decision to eliminate the Yukon Placer Authorization. She would have us believe that some placer miners can't wait to go out of business, kind of like lemmings rushing to jump over a cliff. Nice try Alice, but next time, give Yukoners some credit for their intelligence.

Every miner we know is up in arms over this decision and the KPMA has been in contact with the majority of placer miners in the Yukon. Our office has been swamped with distressed, frustrated and angry miners who fear for their livelihoods and their future. Some miners and Yukoners may still be confused about the full implications of the Minister's decision and the YCS can clearly take credit for some of that confusion.

In an analysis prepared for the Yukon Placer Committee, INAC mining inspectors estimated that 54% of the miners could not physically put in total recycling systems and that none of our miners could meet the proposed 25 mg/l discharge standard consistently. In the current database from sampling operating settling ponds, the inspectors have never found one sample that was even close to 25 mg/l! It is simply unattainable without the use of chemicals, which contrary to your misinformation are generally far more deleterious than natural sediment.

Sediments have been released into the Yukon River system through natural process of erosion as the drainages have been formed over millions of years. The Water Survey of Canada has measured natural sediment concentrations as high as 2,510 mg/l in the Yukon River near Dawson City. The White River has been measured with natural suspended sediment loads as high as 11,400 mg/l. Other rivers like Pelly and Stewart Rivers have been measured as high as 537 and 732 mg/l respectively. But don't take our word for it, check the Water Survey of Canada's factual database.

The discharge standards specified in the YPA ensure that after placer sediment mixes with natural stream waters and reaches important fish habitat, there is less than 25 mg/l of suspended solids in the water. That's quite a bit lower than many of the Yukon's rivers. Monitoring programs by the University of Guelph and recently DIAND water monitoring programs have confirmed the YPA is working. Even you shouldn't have much trouble seeing the difference between water with 25 mg/l of suspended sediment and water from our natural river systems, provided you don't let your smoke stack imagination get in the way.

Contrary to your misinformation, the YPA does not allow placer mining within 30 meters of any salmon spawning area and no direct discharge is ever permitted. Under the YPA and Mining Land Use Regulations, placer miners must restore the land and any fish-bearing streams. To date, the Yukon streams that have been re-investigated after extensive modern placer mining (Vancouver Creek, Scroggie Creek/Walhalla Creek and Britannia/Canadian Creek) all show that more salmon fry were found further upstream than prior to mining. Further, your conclusion that "one hundred percent of stabilized creek diversions fail within eight years" certainly isn't what is seen in the field, is that something you just made up.

Ms. Hartling uses standard YCS rhetoric to suggest to your readers that the YPA "did not effectively protect fish habitat." We're not sure that the YCS would consider anything short of banning all human activity an effective level of protection for fish habitat. The more important question is did the YPA protect fish? The answer is yes. There is no scientific evidence of harm to Yukon fisheries as a result of placer mining activities.

The YCS walked away from a multi-stakeholder, consensus-driven process to review and refine the YPA because it was unable to stall the mediated session. It chose to enlist the vast financial resources of the Sierra Legal Defense Fund and the Suzuki Foundation to lobby and threaten the Minister directly. Well, the YCS got what it wanted. The Minister's decision won't result in an increase in Yukon fisheries because the problems are offshore and include changes in temperature and over-fishing. However, unless we see a change in the Minister's position, you will definitely see a dramatic decrease in placer gold production and a further slump in our depressed economy. With recent record gold prices we should be well on the way to a booming economy, but you helped fix that for us didn't you?

This is a very high price to pay for fixing something that wasn't broken in the first place.


Tara Christie, M.A.Sc.
Klondike Placer Miners' Association


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