On being a Yukoner

22 Jan

I just recently realized that when I’m writing profiles about myself these days, I’ve been calling myself a Yukoner. This is my third Yukon winter, (and the ninth I’ve lived north of 60) but even a year ago, I wouldn’t have dared to call myself a Yukoner. Largely for fear that the born-and-bred Yukoners would scoff. But also because I didn’t feel the part.

Yukon is in many ways unique and distinct from the other two territories of our country: the aboriginal population makes up a far smaller proportion, the general population is older, the economy is a little more diverse, the infrastructure is more developed. But the thing that really struck me when I first moved here from the NWT was this intense sense of pride that both impressed and annoyed me.

Anything that isn’t a part of the Yukon is called Outside. That’s with a capital O. In the NWT and Nunavut, we would say “down south” to refer to most of the rest of Canada, but “Outside” has such a feeling of exclusivity, of snobbery, really. To me, it felt insulting to be from Outside, always an outsider because I lacked the good fortune to be born here. Pride is admirable and constructive. Superiority, not so much. (And don’t even get me started on the Ontario-bashing, which is like superiority gone all jealous girlfriend. Besides, let me just say that northern Ontario is an entirely different province from the rest of Ontario. *ahem*) My neighbour Cathy insisted it was really just that in years gone by, it was very difficult to get in and out of the territory, so that going Outside was a huge big deal.

Having actually lived Outside (ack! I’m saying it!) I feel that I actually have a basis for judging the pros and cons of living in Yukon. And I actually wrote a bunch of stuff about good things about living here as well as other places I’ve lived, but it was so boring that I almost fell asleep as I was re-reading it. Let’s just say that with friends and neighbours so willing to help, getting involved in an advocacy group and the musical community, I feel a lot more “plugged-in” to the Yukon than I was before.

Not too long after I moved to Whitehorse, I volunteered to do security at the Storytelling Festival. One of the things I got to hear when I was off-duty was Hank Karr performing “After Yukon“, a song most Yukoners will be familiar with. It starts off with the line “Where do you go after Yukon?” and goes on to list some of the wonderful things about all the other provinces and territories, but still, Hank just loves Yukon best. It’s a sweet love song that doesn’t bash everyone else, and that’s just lovely. I will share the rest of the lyrics with you if I can track them down.

I do remember turning to Michael after hearing it and saying, “You know, it’s no wonder Yukoners can be so proud of the place where they live. It would be awfully hard to write a song that goes ‘Where do you go after NWT?’ I never put much stock into changing the name of the territory, but maybe Senator Sibbeston was onto something after all.”

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