Five Yukoners were recently inducted into the Hall of Innovators at the Northlight Innovation Building in Whitehorse.
The awards were presented by Yukonstruct, a center for creation and innovation, and the Yukon Department of Economic Development.
In addition to a lifetime achievement award and awards for notable innovators or innovations, a youth award was presented for the first time. It was given to a youth for making the Yukon a better place through leadership, innovative approach to finding solutions or dedication to a cause.
An inspiring youth
In its first year of presenting a Youth Innovation Award, Yukonstruct inducted someone who has achieved a first for Yukon First Nations.
Shadunjen van Kampen, a member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, is the first Aboriginal woman in the Yukon to earn a commercial single-engine pilot’s licence. She obtained it in April 2020, at the age of 21.
The daughter of a Yukon bush pilot, van Kampen, says it was thanks to her father that she discovered that being a pilot was something she could pursue, even though she hadn’t had high school grades.
“[Flying is] a lot of adrenaline but also, sometimes, it’s very stressful at the same time, so I like that,” she said.
His goal is to one day operate his own charter business.
Last fall, van Kampen also earned his Class 1 commercial driver’s license.
“I’ve been driving through the winter and it’s been going really well. It’s been a good job. And I like having things and operating. I think that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Achievement for life
Well-known Whitehorse entrepreneur, Rolf Hougen, received a lifetime achievement award.
Hougen, 93, started running his family’s store when he was 19, growing it into a major department store. Among other accomplishments, he organized the first winter carnivals in Whitehorse in the 1940s, which evolved into the Yukon Rendezvous.
He also launched other businesses, including real estate and broadcasting, starting WHTV Cable in 1958 and CKRW radio in 1969. He also led the charge of satellite communications in Canada, founding satellite communications in remote communities.
He said at the time that Whitehorse received broadcasts a week after they aired in Vancouver.
“Through the use of satellite, we were able to hear them instantly as they were broadcast across Canada,” he said.
Hougen is also a well-known philanthropist who established the Yukon Foundation in 1980 to help Yukoners pursue higher education and research. He is also a patron of the arts, donating the Hougen Center’s 4,500 square foot basement to the Yukon Arts Society.
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Create cultural understanding
Harold Johnson and Meta Williams have been recognized for creating the Long Ago People’s Place, a meeting place of cultural understanding that builds a sense of community.
It is a museum in Champagne, Yukon, halfway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, which opened in 1995.
Johnson said he built it to “recreate all the old ways of our people in this area.”
He said the museum focuses on ancient Southern Tutchone history.
“[People who visit] get a glimpse of life here thousands of years ago and the different technologies and methods and different shelters that people used here,” he said.
He added that they work closely with the Ministry of Education and many school groups and universities, and the museum is constantly growing.
He said Long Ago People’s Place is, in a sense, an act of reconciliation, as it educates non-Indigenous people and advances understanding between the two cultures.
Building a different economy
A longtime resident of Dawson City who has seen economic ups and downs in his hometown, Greg Hakonson wanted to grow the local economy in a more sustainable way after realizing that mining wouldn’t last forever.
While talking one day with a friend, they decided to develop the arts in the community and created what became the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC).
Hakonson said his friend did it for his love of the arts, but his own primary motivation was different.
“I love the arts, but I’ve done it more on Dawson’s economy,” Hakonson said.
Among other things, he envisioned a four-year, degree-granting art school because he had seen similar college-linked programs act as an economic engine in other small communities.
“I thought, well, why can’t we do this in Dawson?”
KIAC partnered with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Yukon College and together they created the Yukon School of Visual Arts (SOVA), which offers the first year of a fine arts degree.
But Hakonson isn’t done. He is determined to see it grow to offer the full four-year degree.
“I think it would have a huge impact on the city,” he said.
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Beverly Gray, owner of Aroma Borealis Herb Shop, was credited as an early adopter.
She started the natural health products business as a home-based business and in 1998 opened a store in downtown Whitehorse.
“It was the early days in the tech industry in terms of local businesses having websites [where] we were selling to outside companies and outside individuals,” she said.
Having an online storefront, which was rare in its industry at the time, allowed it to grow.
She says having her business in the Yukon creates barriers to working with customers outside the territory and getting her products to market.
“And it’s really shipping, and often communications,” she said. “So, you know, being able to have a website and being able to take orders and communicate with our customers is imperative.”
She said that while most of her clients are Yukoners and northerners, about 15-20% of her business is web-based.
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