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Figure 1 joins Kluane First Nation self-governance celebration

Kluane First Nation recently marked the 20th anniversary of their self-governance agreement and published a book to commemorate the momentous occasion. Figure 1 Editorial Director Mike Leyne and Senior Designer Teresa Bubela travelled to the Yukon to celebrate alongside the Elders and community members featured in Lhù’ààn Mân Keyí Dań Kwánje Nààtsat: Kluane Lake Country People Speak Strong—and to try the elk sausage rolls.

Mike: This was my first visit to Kluane Country, and even after all the photos I’d seen and stories I’d read, I was still blown away by the beauty of the land and the warmth and hospitality of the community.

When we arrived in Burwash we finally met the KFN team after many months of video calls and emails, and enjoyed an incredible feast, including perfectly done whitefish and tender moose meat. Chief Bob Dickson and Youth Councillor Coleson Ford gave copies of the book and a gift basket to the Elders and their family members in a touching presentation, and the event wrapped up with dancing by Shàwkwälita (Nathan Easterson-Moore) and traditional songs led by Marissa Mills. “Jimmy Johnson-a” was still stuck in my head the next morning when we stopped at the Fas Gas in Dakwäkäda (Haines Junction) for amazing elk sausage rolls before a quick visit to the beautiful Da Kų Culture Centre.

It was a short trip that will stay with me a long time. I’m grateful to KFN for the opportunity to help them celebrate their Elders and their community, in print and in person.

Teresa Bubela (right) met Kluane First Nation Elder Alyce Johnson (left) for the first time at KFN’s 20 Year Celebration of Self-Governance in Burwash Landing, Yukon. Photo by Alistair Maitland Photography.

Teresa: As Mike and I left Whitehorse in our rental car and ventured along the fabled Alaska Highway to Burwash Landing, I wondered if what I was about to experience would live up to my expectations? Working alongside Linda, Katie and the KFN team, we had spent months taking in the details of every photograph and each Elder’s stories; the rich, complex history of their families; and the beauty of Kluane country itself.

One Elder’s words in particular made a big impression on me (read Alyce Johnson’s chapter in the book and you’ll understand why!), so I felt a bit awestruck at the prospect of speaking with her face to face. Walking through the doors of Jacquot Hall for the launch and feast, that old saying about the perils of meeting your heroes flashed briefly through my mind—but it was quickly replaced by the amazing scent of whitefish broth, bannock and moose roast, and the welcoming smiles from faces that were both new to me and familiar at the same time. When the chance finally came to speak with Alyce, the book’s amazing photographer Alastair Maitland happened to capture the moment in a photo I will treasure. You can’t see my expression but suffice it to say I was anything but disappointed. Meeting Alyce and the other KFN community members was the ultimate highlight of my experience in Burwash, second only to seeing the finished book placed into so many eager hands.

After the feast, Mike and I explored some of the original buildings and walkways nearby and came upon the Josephine settled into its final resting place on the shores of Kluane Lake. It felt like my time spent with the project had come full-circle, and I am grateful to everyone who helped make the experience possible. Shä̀w níthän!

Remnants of the Josephine on the shores of Kluane Lake. Photo by Mike Leyne.

Lhù’ààn Mân Keyí Dań Kwánje Nààtsat: Kluane Lake Country People Speak Strong is available in stores and online now.

November 21, 2023
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