Roster of Whitehorse events planned for 50th anniversary of First Nations delegation to Ottawa

The Council for Yukon First Nations (CYFN) is inviting the whole community of the Yukon to come to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre this week to help celebrate and honour the people who wrote the foundational document Together Today for our Children Tomorrow, and took it to Ottawa 50 years ago in January 1973.

Some of the event organizers may not have been born then, but the document delivered is a cornerstone of the lives they live today. Together Today for our Children Tomorrow kickstarted negotiations that resulted in the Umbrella Final Agreement, the basic framework for the 11 First Nation final agreements signed between 1993 and 2005.

“I think what makes it really extra special is to see that we’re kind of living the dream that was the document,” said Tagyn Vallevand, a Kwanlin Dün citizen and employee helping CYFN organize the event.

Vallevand explained how that the document forms the basis of where Yukon First Nations dreamed of being 50 years ago.

“And where does the next 50 years take us?” she said.

The document’s layout is also forming the schedule for the 10 days of celebration starting Feb. 11.

The day will begin with a short ceremony honouring those who have recently passed. Breakfast will be served Feb. 11 and 12 at 8 a.m. and a handgames tournament begins at 9 a.m. both days in the Longhouse at Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (registration opened Feb. 10).

The schedule for handgames cannot be determined in advance.

“With handgames, we can have a set schedule of when we expect this person. But you know how it rolls!” Vallevand said it could end at 7 p.m. or 11 p.m. “It really, really depends.”

A children’s area will be set up in the elders’ lounge showing how weekend events have been structured for families. The same goes for Feb. 18 when the celebration moves up to the Canada Games Centre for a family fun day of playing, skating and swimming.

Events during the week at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre also include a display of photos, film screenings, archival displays as well as storytellers and elders speaking at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. every day.

A speaker series will be hosted by the Grand Chief Peter Johnston, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each days’ speakers are themed to tune with the document that is being celebrated – Feb. 13 is people; Feb. 14 is economic development; Feb. 15 is land, water and language; Feb. 16 is education; and Feb. 17 is governance, responsibilities and solutions.

Lunch will be served at noon each day.

On Feb. 16, a special dinner is being held for alumni and staff of the early organizations involved with Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow – the Yukon Native Brotherhood (YNB), Council for Yukon Indians (CYI), Yukon Association of Non-status Indians (YANSI), and CYFN.

The Feb. 15 community dinner will showcase specially commissioned songs for the event and feature various performers, including Dena Zagi. Friday’s potlatch dinner will include dance performances from First Nations and groups from around the territory.

First Nation artists will lead workshops during the afternoon each day, and there will be a community mural constructed over the course of the week.

In the Longhouse, the displays and events will shift throughout the week. On Feb. 13, it will become an artists’ market running until 7 p.m.; Feb. 14 and 15 will see a trade show of First Nations businesses, organizations, projects and initiatives; and Feb. 16, the Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship will make a presentation. On Feb. 17, the hall will be filled with language learning activities.

The official opening happens Feb. 13. at 11 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to be in the Yukon and has been invited to attend.

People can check for further schedule details on CYFN’s facebook page, Instagram or cyfn.ca/50.

Lawrie Crawford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Yukon News