Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Photographs and video by Agnieszka Pajor.

Over the past few months the Shākāt Team traveled to a number of different communities to collect stories from youth all around the territory. We were struck by their creativity and unique perspectives on life in the Yukon. Here are some of their stories.

It was a great day as we proceeded with our workshops. The students grabbed cameras and microphones and ran around recording journalism students interviewing an Elder and music students writing and performing a song. We were happy to see that they got right into it as they wanted to work with us and complete the project.

Interview with Jean Desmarais.

By Ethan Anderson Boucher.

Today we interviewed Jean Desmarais at Carcross Guch cla community school. She’s an Elder of the Ishkahittaan (Frog Clan) and grew up around Carcross.

Jean was born on the trap line in Bennett, she lived with her grandparents and eight siblings, she was the youngest one. Her first time hunting she was with her grandfather hunting a moose. ‘ It took about 45 minutes for it to pop up, but it wasn’t too hard,’ she said.

Jean was brought to Carcross when she was six years old, not knowing what a store was or even what money was. She laughed when she told us about when she learned she needed money to buy things, so she trapped squirrels to make money.

When she got older, she started missing her home and wasn’t so into technology, she still isn’t. When she was on the trapline, she would usually be with her grandfather helping. She would help by getting wood, chopping it and helping during hunts. Jean had to help keep the wolf population down, she’d do that by going into the wolf den and killing all of the wolf pups, except one. If she didn’t do that the wolf population would grow and they wouldn’t be able to hunt moose or caribou.

I asked Jean “What’s your favorite memory of your grandfather?” She replied by saying “All of them. Not one was a bad memory.” She started getting emotional.

After she was done residential school, she wasn’t able to speak her language anymore. She went back to school when she was 40 years old. Jean said she only had a grade four education, but within six months she was done.

Jean has won bingo three times; the first time she won $10,000, the second $8000 and the third $5000!

It was very interesting to listen to her stories and what she had to say. When I was talking to Jean it felt like I was talking to somebody very important. Jean said that we should respect our selves and then we will learn to respect each other.

Thank you, Jean.

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