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Tales of war and madness new fare of festival. (All My Relations).

For three days this July, a small community will spring up in Rotary Peace Park along the banks of the Yukon River, made up of storytellers from around the world and those gathered to hear their tales.

This is the sixteenth year the Yukon International Storytelling Festival has been held in Whitehorse. This year's festival will be held from July 4 to 6, and will feature performers from New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, as well as storytellers from across Canada and a number of local performers.

The storytelling festival got its start when festival co-founders Anne Tayler and Louise Profeit-LeBlanc learned that Yukon Elder and storyteller Angela Sidney had to travel to Toronto to share her stories in a festival setting. The two, met with Sidney and came up with the idea of holding a local festival.

That first festival was held in 1988 and was so successful it became an annual event.

When it first started, the festival was held at the end of June. Then the date was changed to the end of May/beginning of June. It has now been changed again to the beginning of July, in hopes that the weather will be more accommodating than in previous years, explained Lillian Grubach-Hambrook, the festival's executive director.

"It's always windy and wet during our festival, perennially ... We've had hail, we've had windstorms whip up the tents, we've had pouring rain for three days."

Festival-goers will also notice a slight departure from the types of stories that are usually offered.

"It's usually what they call a general admission, general festival for families, but we've found that a lot of people have asked for, you know, they want tales of war and madness, tales of lies and riddles, and they want adult stories versus children's stories. And they find that, even though it's nice to have a family all together, you get generica, and even the artists have said so. So what we've done is we're going with two large tents, and four small theme tents. And we're doing things like tall tales and sagas, you know, where people are going to tell the Odyssey and the Kalevala ... and stuff that takes 12 hours and 30 people to recite. Just more stuff like that," Grubach-Hambrook said.

Among the storytellers scheduled to take part in this year's festival are William Dumas, from the Opiponapiwin Cree Nation in Manitoba, who will be sharing stories learned from his Elders. And Roberta Kennedy, who was raised on Haida Gwaii, will use drums, storytelling and traditional Haida songs to tell stories of the Haida people of long ago.

Tlingit performers Sharon Shorty and Duane Ghastant' Aucoin, better known as Grandma Susie and Cash Creek Charlie, will also make an appearance, and are guaranteed to get the crowd laughing.

Festival co-founder Louise Profeit-LeBlanc will take part as well. A member of the Nacho N'y Ak Dun First Nation in the Yukon, Profeit-LeBlanc is an accomplished poet and visual artist, and often shares stories that reflect the history and culture of her people.

This year's list of storytellers also features three performers from New Zealand, each promising to bring their own particular style to the gathering. Dean Hapeta 'Te Kupu' describes himself as a writer, poet, rapper, DJ, producer, programmer, musician and video artist. Hapeta, who has both Maori and European heritage, has released his latest album in both English and Maori versions. In addition to his solo career, he is also lead singer of the Upper Hutt Posse.

Master storyteller Joe Harawira will share Maori legends about the creation of the world. And rounding out the list of New Zealanders is Robert Sullivan, an award-winning Maori poet and storyteller and author of the children's book Weaving Earth and Sky: Myths and Legends of Aotearoa.

A number of satellite events are scheduled, including a dance on July 3, campfire stories at Robert Service Campground on July 7 and a poetry reading at Well-Read Books on July 8.

After 16 years at the Rotary Peace Park, next year's festival will be held. in the new Shipyards Park currently being developed on the Whitehorse waterfront.

A weekend pass to this year's Yukon International Storytelling Festival is $20 for youth and seniors, and $40 for adults. Admission for, children is free. For more information visit
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Title Annotation:Yukon International Storytelling Festival in Whitehorse
Author:Petten, Cheryl
Publication:Wind Speaker
Geographic Code:1CYUK
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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