The Yukon is a mythic place: the land is vast and wild, the climate harsh and
uncompromising, the people resourceful and resilient. Say the word "Yukon"
and southerners still conjure up images of the rough and ready frontier: whiskered
men in plaid shirts or parka-clad women wielding axes in the struggle for survival
in a silent, isolated land. The truth is, you can find them here.
But the Yukon holds more than one truth. Writer Patricia Robertson says, "The
fact that it's young seems to attract really interesting, adventurous people
who want something different and who are willing to take a risk." The stories
in this book, shared by fifty women--"born here or came here"--attest
to the enduring nature of the north and the evolving character of a dynamic
community. The changes over time and the things that stay the same give a unique
insight into the circumstances that make their lives different.
Yukon women live lives similar to their counterparts down south: they are homemakers,
doctors, teachers, run businesses and work in government. But how they live
their lives in the Yukon is unique. As Robertson says, "You are pulled
back to the elemental aspects of life. You can pretend in a city that you're
in control but you know if your car breaks down between Whitehorse and Carcross
at 40 below, you better hope somebody turns up or you're well prepared because
you could die. The natural world is in charge and you are not."
These stories paint a picture of what life was--and is--really like for Yukon
women. It is an untold story that will deepen your understanding of how and
why this remote frontier adds not just colour, but depth, sensitivity and strength
to the Canadian story.
About the Authors
Born in a small town on the scenic Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, Claire early on
developed a keen appreciation for storytelling and nature. Swapping stories
around the bonfire down on the beach in summer or around the heater in wood
camps accessed by snowmobile in winter was a key part of growing up. Claire
went west to Alberta in 1976 to further her education and to explore Canada.
In 1977 she flew to the Yukon in search of a summer job and felt an immediate
sense of belonging. Claire fully embraced all the territory has to offer, from
running a trap line to representing the Yukon across the country on national
boards to volunteering with the world's longest sled dog race.
Claire first lived in rural Yukon, in the Elsa mining area. A year after the
mine shut down, she enrolled in the University of British Columbia. She graduated
with an English honours degree in 1994. She toyed with leaving the Yukon and
even spent a winter in Ontario, but she moved back. Shortly after, she met her
Claire shares her passion for travel with Ed. Together, they have explored
the far reaches of the north by various means: canoe, snowshoe, private plane
and on foot. Their adventures around the world are also active: trekking in
the Himalayas, biking in Cuba, kayaking in Australia and Mexico, and hiking
in any destination, from Switzerland to Australia to Canada.
In 2009 she and Ed bought a home in the hills above Penticton, British Columbia.
But they often return north, visiting their Yukon friends and staying at their
Whitehorse apartment, which overlooks the Yukon River.
Born and raised in North Vancouver, Valerie has made Whitehorse her home for
more than thirty-five years. She arrived there after completing her degree in
physiotherapy at the University of British Columbia, trading in a city lifestyle
for a northern adventure that became a permanent way of life. Valerie still
lives in the log home she moved into in 1980 and works from her studio, created
from an old workshop, on the same property. There, she and her husband, Dan,
enjoy an extended family and deep Yukon roots.
The paintings included in Remarkable Yukon Women are part of an art exhibit
titled "Yukon Women, 50 Over 50." They were inspired by Valerie's
desire to paint portraits from life and to celebrate ordinary Yukoners.