The featured image is a shot of sunset over the Yukon River… photographed at 10 minutes before Midnight last night! We sleep for a few hours in twilight before the sun rises again around 4 AM, about 20 degrees off the location it set 4 hours earlier. Weird. It feels a lot like jet lag the next day.
Due to the long dark winters, this small town erupts with activities celebrating the longest day of the year. This weekend we are parked near the 30 bands playing the “Sunstroke Festival”, the Farmer’s Market, and the Millennial Trail to narrow Miles Canyon where the Whitehorse Rapids claimed many river travelers lives during the Gold Rush, and created the name for the town. Now flooded out by a downstream dam, the water still roils with eddies, whirlpools and strong currents. There is a very personal memorial riverside, celebrating the life of a 20 year old boy who drowned here one year ago rescuing his dog. My first illogical thought was, “I would kill MY 20 year old son for doing something so stupid”, before I felt that boy’s mother’s deep grief and loss.
The other wonderful event this Solstice weekend was a gathering of First Nation people at the Kwanlin Dun (“People of the Water running through the Narrows”) Cultural Center, celebrating Aboriginal Day. As it was mostly First Nation people attending, it felt like sitting in on someone else’s big happy family reunion. We enjoyed the drummers who performed at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, several dance troupes, and elders in traditional dress teaching First Nation culture by way of storytelling.
The Truth and Reconciliation Project had the saddest story to tell; the Canadian government forced assimilation of First Nation people by removing their children and raising them in large residential institutions. The last institution closed down in Saskatchewan in 1996, so a generation of aboriginal people have no knowledge of their history and culture, no experience of family and parenting, and thus no First Nation pride… just the bigotry against “Drunken Indians” that runs rampant in parts of Canada. In fact, I heard a security guard at the Sunstroke concert tell a First Nation Family on their bikes standing at the fence enjoying the music, “Your indian party is over there”. For more information on the Canadian Residential Home Program, read personal accounts of the experience in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission book, “They Came For The Children”.
Earlier, on my way to the nearby “indian party”, I came upon a First Nation man, clean and well-dressed, passed out in the parking lot with a bleeding nose, while adults and teens walked and drove by him offering no assistance. He did not smell of alcohol, and his pin point pupils, non-reactive to light suggested opiate overdose. Perhaps he was neurologically impaired due to a blood sugar issue or some other medical issue? Once I ascertained he wasn’t dead (good pulse and respiration) and got him turned on his side so he wouldn’t asphyxiate on vomit, I found a security guard to call the paramedics, who arrived quickly and moved him out on a gurney. The security guard said he was not surprised at the lack of response from the disinterested passersby, “It is a sad and shameful response, but it’s so common in Whitehorse to find drunken First Nation men injured from falls, that most people here just don’t care, and don’t respond anymore.” It’s almost impossible to re-educate bigotry when stereotyping is enforced by repetition in daily life. We enjoyed that many young First Nation people were involved in the arts and music presentations today, especially great hip-hop/rap artists that were so percussive, they were really swinging!