Heritage, Arts & Culture
First Nations artists in the spotlight
The Art of Carrying Tradition
Dancing auroras, majestic wildlife, colourful changes of season. Art clearly comes naturally in the Yukon—especially within First Nations with deep connections to this land and stories passed down through many generations. From music to beading to dancing to carving, First Nations artists all over the territory are combining their unique visions with ancient traditions. So we thought we’d feature a few from a variety of disciplines. They’re award winners, local legends, and world-renowned artists who are all born and raised in the Yukon.
Keith Wolfe Smarch: Tlingit Master Carver
Keith Wolfe Smarch is a master Tlingit carver who tells the stories of his people in wood, metal and ivory. His masks, totem poles, regalia and jewellery have become a must-see in galleries, businesses, communities and collections in the Yukon and around the world.
He is a respected leader in preserving the Tlingit carving style in the Yukon, and he works hard to pass on the ancient practice to younger carvers.
Based in Haines Junction, Yukon, the Dakwakada Dancers have become leaders of a movement to rejuvenate dance traditions in their community and on stages across the territory. The group was established by four sisters who are all granddaughters of the late Annie Ned: a well-known and respected Southern Tutchone Elder. The Dakwakada Dancers focus on supporting community members in connecting with their culture, by responding to the beat of the drum. They’ve become a must-see show over the years, bringing crowds and traditions to life all over the Yukon.
Diyet & the Love Soldiers: Musician
Diyet first fell in love with music at a young age and eventually went on to study it in Victoria, B.C. After completing her degree, her music started to gain traction and she became a published songwriter. Her soaring voice and powerful lyrics portray stories of love, resilience and healing.
With her band, Diyet & the Love Soldiers, she’s earned multiple music award nominations and the title of Indigenous Songwriter of the Year for her latest album (Diyet and the Love Soldiers) at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Today, she’s rocking out, playing shows and sharing her art in the Yukon, all over Canada, and across the pond in the UK and Europe.
Vashti Etzel: Traditional Art & Design Artist
As a master of beadwork and First Nations traditional art (with a contemporary flair), Vashti draws her artistic inspiration from her roots. She grew up living off the land in Ross River, where she was immersed in stories passed down by her family.
Fast forward to today and she’s combined her heritage and talent to create her very own brand, Golden Eye Designs. She’s created countless masterpieces for her growing list of customers, including her family and fans in the Yukon, the UK and Europe.
Jerry Alfred: Keeper of the Songs
Jerry is known as the “Keeper of the Songs” of the Crow Clan. Not only does he collect and perform traditional music in his Northern Tutchone language at ceremonial events for the Selkirk First Nation People, he also composes his own original pieces. As a songwriter, he updates traditional Tutchone music with contemporary western influences.
And with a Juno Award for his album ETSI Shon/"Grandfather Song," and performances at concerts in the Yukon and at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, he is recognized both for his dedication to preserving traditional songs and as a captivating performer whose of music resonates with people from all walks of life.