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Yellowknife considers YKDFN spring carnival civic holiday

Council members at a January 23, 2023 meeting
Yellowknife city council members at a January 23, 2023 meeting. Caitrin Pilkington/Cabin Radio

Yellowknife city councillors will spend Monday weighing up whether to turn Friday afternoon into a half-day civic holiday for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s spring carnival.

The city used to declare an annual half-day holiday for the Long John Jamboree, but the jamboree – a weekend of activities on Yellowknife Bay in late March – hasn’t taken place since 2019.

The 2020 edition was called off because of Covid-19, and the pandemic was also blamed for its absence in 2021. In early 2022, the jamboree’s board said the event was being “put to bed” indefinitely, in part because of a lack of volunteers able to commit the time needed.

By contrast, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation spring carnival returned in 2022 after a two-year absence and has a full schedule planned for its 2023 edition this coming weekend, March 31-April 2.

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A fishing derby will take place on Friday, followed by an evening talent show. Saturday involves a carnival, pond hockey and a range of outdoor events. Sunday brings a pancake breakfast, baking contest and community feast. A hand games tournament runs throughout the weekend.

Events take place in Dettah, with hourly buses to and from Ndılǫ.

A briefing note for Yellowknife city councillors states that First Nation leaders have expressed support for the city declaring a half-day holiday for the carnival.

“Supporting a civic holiday in 2023 to encourage Yellowknifers to participate in the YKDFN Spring Carnival will endorse Yellowknifers’ ability to actively engage in cultural activities and the northern tradition of spring carnivals,” that briefing note states.

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If a bylaw enacting the holiday passes, 12pm till 5pm on Friday would become a holiday for Yellowknife civil servants. That would coincide with a feeding-the-fire ceremony at 1:30pm inside Dettah’s Chief Drygeese Centre, then the start of the hand games tournament from 2pm till 6pm in the community gym.

The city notes that Friday is also the last day for property owners to make interim levy property tax payments.

“With City Hall closed for the afternoon, property owners who have waited until then to make their payment can either drop off a cheque in the payment dropbox at City Hall or pay through their bank,” the briefing note suggests.

Councillors will discuss the proposal at Monday lunchtime and, if they back the move, could enact a bylaw creating the civic holiday on Monday evening.

However, the last attempt to launch a new civic holiday in Yellowknife failed.

In 2021, Folk on the Rocks asked the city to make the Friday afternoon of the annual music festival a civic holiday, arguing that such a move would allow more locals to volunteer at the festival and let families enjoy free events at Somba K’e Civic Plaza. 

Councillors, however, voted down the proposal. One councillor, Niels Konge, said at the time he didn’t support the plan as it would only allow those “fortunate enough to work for government” to have the afternoon off, while everyone else would have to work unless their employer independently granted the same holiday.