North

'She sure taught us a lot': Kwanlin Dün First Nation elder Annie Smith remembered

Kwanlin Dün First Nation elder Annie Smith died this week, leaving behind a legacy of traditional teachings passed along to younger generations.

Smith, once called 'an icon of Yukon's First Nation sewing and beading community,' died this week at 95

Kwanlin Dün First Nation elder Annie Smith, 95, died this week. The First Nation said she was their oldest citizen. (Kwanlin Dün First Nation)

Kwanlin Dün First Nation elder Annie Smith died this week, leaving behind a legacy of traditional teachings passed along to younger generations.

The First Nation says that Smith, 95, was their oldest citizen. She lived through the Second World War and the construction of the Alaska Highway.

She was married to Johnny Smith, who served as chief of the Whitehorse Indian Band, a precursor to Kwanlin Dün First Nation. The two had 13 children and were married for 63 years, before Johnny passed away.

Annie and Johnny were both teachers, and took any opportunity they could to teach people about the First Nation's culture — through beading, tanning moosehide, trapping, and fishing.

"Any cultural activities that people wanted to learn, my mom and dad would pass on that knowledge," said Dianne Smith, one of Annie's children.

Annie made a living through her exceptional sewing and beadwork. Former Yukon premier Darrell Pasloski described her as "an icon of Yukon's First Nation sewing and beading community." 

In 2016, Annie and members of her family made moccasins for each of Canada's premiers at the time, when they met in Yukon.

Dianne said that her mother's teachings were far-reaching and had an impact on younger generations.

"My mother was known throughout many communities through B.C. and Alaska. She passed on her teachings of how to make slippers and passed on her patterns to young people that wanted to learn how to do beadwork."

Her mother wanted to help others be self-sufficient through teaching them traditional activities, she said.

Dianne says her mother would say that whatever skills she taught and passed on would help them out at some point in their lives.

Her teachings and skills were recognized on a national level.

In 2012, she received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of all she has contributed to the territory and the country as a whole.

Another daughter of Annie's, Judy Gingell, said her mother's beadwork teaching will live on in other generations.

"She has taught a lot of them how to do the bead work … her message all the time to our children and to us was 'you'll never starve.'"

Smith was incredibly dedicated, and always preached about independence, her daughter said.

"She sure is going to be missed, but she sure taught us a lot," said Gingell.

Kwanlin Dun First Nation Elder Annie Smith has died at the age of 95. Her daughter, Dianne Smith, spoke with guest host Elyn Jones. 9:46

now