North

New pin, new role for Yukon historian named Story Laureate

A Yukon historian has been recognized as the territory's first Story Laureate. Michael Gates is the author of six books on Yukon History and by his count has published more than 600 columns in a series called History Hunters in the Yukon News.

Michael Gates keeps 'poking and prodding' through history archives and after 600+ columns he has a new role

'That there are more stories than I could possibly tell myself,' said Yukon's new Story Laureate Michael Gates. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A Yukon historian has been recognized as the territory's first Story Laureate.

Michael Gates is the author of six books on Yukon History and by his count has published more than 600 columns in a series called History Hunters in the Yukon News. 

The series has explored the territory's working people, social customs, vices, military contributions, industries (including the Gold Rush), First Nations and Indigenous history and even the pandemic of 1918.

Gates is a former Parks Canada curator of collections at the Klondike National Historic Site in Dawson. 

He's also a frequent presence at the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse.

Gates said digging through archives brings him joy and the thrill of discovery. 

One memorable find was discovering a collection of old film in Dawson City, which inspired a documentary and an upcoming book.

"If I've learned anything, it's that there are more stories than I could possibly tell myself. The Yukon is a unique place with unique people and unique events. It's been my joy to bring those stories to light," he said. 

Gates was given a pin and inaugurated into his new role at the historic Taylor House in Whitehorse, a log building whose construction began in 1906.

This is the first time Commissioner of Yukon Angélique Bernard has welcomed someone into the role of Story Laureate. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Historian will serve 2-year term to promote literacy

Commissioner of Yukon Angélique Bernard says the new position will have a two-year term.

The commissioner does not choose the person named.

Candidates for the role were reviewed and a laureate selected by a three-person jury, which the Yukon government's Tourism and Culture branch helped select based on their involvement in Yukon culture, literacy and arts.

The goal is for the laureate to celebrate literacy through public events and readings, though of course, this year, things will be different with COVID-19. 

Gates will be writing during his time as Laureate. The role brings a stipend of $5000 a year and some funds for travel, though with COVID-19 there may not be much of that.

Today Gates said, after six books, about 600 columns and countless hours of research, he hasn't run out of interesting things to discover. 

For example, he is currently interested in cinema and the history of silent film in Dawson City, noting that during the Gold Rush, Dawson City had eight theatres at one time. Who knew!

The new role will see a chosen Yukon author appointed as Story Laureate every two years. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

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