When I was younger, I spent a year in the Yukon, working for what was then called Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. What started as a three month co-op term was renewed until we hit the maximum. It was a transformative year for me. I loved living up north; the city transformed in the spring time, I learned to cross country ski, and I lived in a cabin without heating or running water.
I had studied First Nations at school, doing the Arts One program at UBC with a focus on First Nations history, practices and tradition. But being up North personalized both the challenges and the deep history. There are actual negotiated treaties (self-governance agreements) with First Nations in the Yukon, unlike the lands I sit in right now. I learned much about the diversity in communities there. I knew intellectually that cultural groups are well, different. But then to see how different communities reckoned with self-governance and a changing relationship with DIAND (now INAC) made my understanding of First Nations more uncertain and more complicated (my mother used to say that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and she was right).
That was where I first did media management, making sure that the journalists got access to specific elders and spelled names correctly at a ceremony with the Minister, and that photo ops were arranged. And the drudge of the weekly ads we had to purchase as part of land transfer (?), and the value of newsletters, even if everyone claimed not to read them.
And I saw the Northern Lights.