Hall of Innovators 2021

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Yukon changemakers and innovators from across the territory were presented with a Hall of Innovators Award and inducted into the permanent Hall of Innovators in the NorthLight Innovation building at an online awards ceremony on January 27th. Keep reading to learn about the Yukoners who were recognized for their hard work.

It is our greatest pleasure to present the recipients of the 2021 Hall of Innovators Awards.

Rolf Hougen

Rolf Hougen, Lifetime Achievement Award

At 93 years old, this is Rolf Hougen’s fourth-lifetime achievement award honouring his decades of tireless commitment to the Yukon he calls home. His first lifetime achievement award was in 1992. The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society celebrated Rolf for organizing the first Whitehorse Winter Carnivals in the 1940s and then reviving the annual festival again in 1962 to become the now iconic Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous.

Rolf’s second lifetime achievement award came from the Yukon Historical and Museums Association in 2011. His donation of over 40,000 photos, film footage, and written work over the years gave valuable insight into both the daily and crucial moments that shaped Yukon’s history. In 2016, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce presented Rolf with his third lifetime achievement award, commemorating his contributions as a Yukon business leader and visionary.

Ever since he started managing the Hougen family store at the age of 19, Rolf has always seen the investing potential of the Yukon. He grew the family store into a major department store that expanded into today’s Hougen Group of Companies, holding real estate and business ventures throughout Yukon.

Rolf’s most significant ventures centered on broadcasting in the north. The Yukon wouldn’t be the same without WHTV Cable that Rolf started in 1958 or the CKRW radio station he’s put on air since 1969. Not content until remote communities in Canada also received satellite service, Rolf co-founded the Canadian Satellite Communications Ltd. (CanCom) in 1978.

In addition to business, Rolf believes it’s important to invest in the people of Yukon. With the help of 16 long-time Yukoners, he set up the Yukon Foundation in 1980. Since then, it continues to fund Yukoners in the pursuit of higher education and research.

Rolf is a generous patron of the Yukon arts community as well. In 2004, he donated the 4,500-square-foot basement level of the Hougen Centre to the Yukon Arts Society. That space turned into Arts Underground, a vital gallery for local artists to exhibit their latest creations.

At the end of the day though – even with all his accomplishments and awards – Rolf would hold his family up as his greatest legacy. With a loving wife, six children, and18 grandchildren by his side, Rolf’s achievements will no doubt echo through many Lifetimes.

Greg Hakonson

Greg Hakonson, Notable Innovators Award

An innovator and a builder at heart, Greg’s main goal is creating and growing a new economy for Dawson and he has the uncanny ability to bring a clear blueprint of what is needed to achieve it. His proven reputation as someone who finishes what he starts while putting his community first cements his place as one of the Notable Innovators this year.

Greg was instrumental in establishing a hub in Dawson for Yukon arts to flourish. Turning a conversation idea into reality, Greg and other founders came together to form the Dawson City Arts Society in 1998. By autumn that year, they began renovations of the rundown Odd Fellows Hall to turn it into the iconic headquarters of the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC).

Greg envisioned a new economy for Dawson based on the arts so he rallied the local community, with the support of government funding, to achieve that vision.  Officially opening in 2000, by 2001, KIAC was home to the ODD Gallery, Dawson City International Short Film Festival, Yukon Riverside Arts Festival, and the Youth Art Enrichment Program – all of which continue to be central events in the Yukon arts scene.

Greg was the visionary for the Yukon School of Visual Arts (SOVA) with plans for it to grow into a four-year, degree granting, Yukon art institution. SOVA opened in 2007 and now students worldwide regularly enroll for the opportunity to complete the first year of their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in the heart of the Klondike.

SOVA’s success created a population increase in Dawson and highlighted the city’s housing shortage as new Dawsonites struggled to find accommodations. Tackling this issue through his design and build company, ORO Enterprises, over the past fifteen or so years, Greg has been working to increase the housing supply and so continuing his goal of expanding and growing Dawson’s economy.

As his nomination read “This is a nutshell version of Greg’s accomplishments, there are many more. He was born in Dawson City and has a great love for his hometown, every project he dreams up is meant to benefit our town in some way.” Greg is truly an example of a doer, who sees an opportunity or a gap and brings together the people, the resources and the ideas to grab hold of it and bring something new to life.

Harold Johnson and Meta Williams, 3rd and 4th from left.

Harold Johnson and Meta Williams, Notable Innovators Award

It was the desire to preserve his culture that led Harold Johnson to work closely with his Champagne and Aishihik First Nations elders. Throughout the 1980s, he learned to build everything by hand – from his people’s seasonal shelters and caribou fences to the tools that shaped them.

He then partnered with Meta Williams to turn a traditional Southern Tutchone camp he built from scratch into an educational site. In May 1995, Kwäday Dän Kenji (“Long Ago People’s Place”) welcomed the public to its grounds.

For more than 20 years, Harold and Meta helped people gain a deeper appreciation for the First Nations way of life. They developed guided tours that recount their history and workshops that showcase their craftsmanship. Their programs offer a glimpse of not only how their people once lived, but also how to live in harmony with the land.

Harold and Meta persevered even when the rerouting of the Alaska Highway in 2002 reduced the number of drop-in visitors. Their business has provided continuous employment opportunities to Southern Tutchone First Nations over the years. But above all, it has given their people a chance to reconnect with their ancestors and the traditions they’ve inherited.

Shadunjen van Kampen

Shadunjen van Kampen, Youth Innovator Award

Shadunjen van Kampen’s historic achievement sets her apart as the Youth Innovator this year. Her trailblazing perseverance in the face of mounting odds will serve as an inspiration for First Nations and Yukon women of future generations.

While the rest of her high school graduating class was thinking about university, Shadunjen went in a different direction. Inspired by her father’s long career as a Yukon bush pilot, she applied for flight school.

Shadunjen got into the Victoria Flying Club in 2017. Not letting the predominantly male field faze her, she quickly earned recognition as a skilled pilot. Even when financial difficulties forced an early return to the Yukon, she didn’t give up. With additional training from her father, who donated his spare time to help her meet her training requirements, Shadunjen kept logging her flight hours and studying when she wasn’t flying.

In April 2020, she earned her single-engine commercial pilot licence – the first Yukon First Nations woman to do so. And all by the age of 21.

Even the pandemic hasn’t slowed her down as it did the tourism industry. As she looks forward to operating her own chartered-flight touring business one day, Shadunjen hopes Yukon women can look up to her when they dream of taking their place in the sky.

Although Shadunjen may have simply been following her passions, the selection committee saw that this is no small feat, to blaze a new trail and carve a path forothers to follow, and so we are thrilled to celebrate Shadunjen with the first Youth Notable Innovator award we have awarded.

The Youth Innovator Award is presented by The Western Arctic Youth Collective.

Beverley Gray

Beverley Gray, Notable Innovators Award

In 1998, Beverley Gray opened Canada’s most northern herb shop, Aroma Borealis, it filled a gap in the Yukon’s natural health and herb markets with a wide range of locally harvested herbal health products that she skillfully formulated including teas, salves and skin creams–created and manufactured in-house. She then scaled up the business with an online storefront, which was uncommon in her industry at the time. Beverley’s continuous early-adopter mindset makes her one of this year’s Notable Innovators.

Beverley has always been deeply connected to the natural world and her passion for herbology grew from sourcing natural products for her family to creating herbal remedies for Yukoners. What began as a home-based business expanded into Aroma Borealis – an herb shop that now creates over 300 different products and sells many other natural health products carefully sourced by Beverley and her team. For over two decades, her shop has been the natural health mainstay of Whitehorse.

Beverley uses her knowledge and experience as a certified aromatherapist herbalist specializing in boreal medicinal plants to develop formulas that complement the body’s innate healing process. Her all-purpose Green Aid Ointment won the 2005 Gold Award of Excellence from alive magazine. The following year, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce presented Beverley with the Business Person of the Year Award.

Beverley goes beyond her business to help people understand the symbiotic relationship between our health and our environment. She published the international award winning book, The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North in 2011 as well as A Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants of Canada in 2013. She also teaches workshops on respectful harvests of northern flora and Medicine-making.

As a founding member of the Yukon Wholistic Health Network, Beverley is a leader dedicated to supporting the local wellness community so that it continues to thrive.

The awards are designed by local Tlingit artist, Mark Preston – the same artist who designed the Hall of Innovators installation. The Hall of Innovators is presented in partnership with Yukon Government’s Department of Economic Development.

Yukonstruct welcomes nominations for the 2022 Hall of Innovator Awards in October, 2022.