Voting opens for new Northern history film contest

Voting opens for new Northern history film contest
Julienne Chipesia & Kayla Sanderson.Photos: Canada's History.

Two Northwest Territories students are going head to head with over 20 other young Canadians in a new short film competition aimed at celebrating Northern history.

Kayla Sanderson of Yellowknife and Julienne Chipesia from Inuvik have been selected to represent the NWT in a special version of the Young Citizens program, called Expedition North, presented by the national charity Canada’s History.

Students in Grades 4-11 who participated in regional, provincial and territorial heritage fairs were invited to submit a video about their heritage projects to the program, now in its second year.

Content had to have an Aboriginal or Northern history component this year, said Joanna Dawson, the Community Engagement Coordinator at Canada’s History.

Sanderson’s project focused on the life and times of one of the NWT’s first dentists, Ian Calder.

“I was curious about the name because I live on Calder Street, so I wanted to know more,” Sanderson, 12, said.

She interviewed Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley who partook in a canoe trip on the Back River with Calder and a family member, Peter Bromley, when he was 16 to retrace the steps of George Black, an adventurer in the early 20th century who set out for the Klondike.

“That was one of the most interesting things I learned,” Sanderson said.

She learned the group ended up stranded without food or dry clothing for 10 days after the canoe capsized.

“We’re all very proud of her and all the students, really,” mom Juanetta Sanderson said. “It was a steep learning curve, putting a video together.”

Chipesia, 12, sought to explain the Gwich’in Land Claim Agreement, a modern treaty signed in 1992, for her project.

“I wanted to learn more about the topic and teach others about it because it’s something very important… It gives the Gwich’in a voice,” Chipesia said. “I got to talk to (Dene National Chief) Bill Erasmus and (past president of the Gwich’in Tribal Council) Fred Carmichael…I think I did a good job. I learned a lot. It would be nice to win, but it was just a good experience.”

The Young Citizens program is designed to increase the visibility of heritage fairs across the country, Dawson said.

“There is no national heritage fair, so this runs in conjunction with all the regional ones,” she said. “It allows the students to really showcase their work and connect their histories. Canadians can see how strong history is in the classrooms…We really encourage the students to become ambassadors of their projects and make the case of why this history is important and why we should all care. The film aspect makes it that much more engaging and creative.”

Over 200 students participated in the program in 2012.

This year, Young Citizens decided to be more selective and add a theme to the contest.

“The program is still fairly new, so we’re trying different things out to see what works best,” Dawson said.

Expedition North was chosen as the theme to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Canadian Arctic Expedition when 14 scientists, several captains and their crew set sail on a mission to explore lands in the Beaufort Sea from 1913-1918.

Four winners will be selected from the group of finalists after a public online vote, followed by a review from a panel of judges.

Featured prizes are a trip for two to Ottawa in November to watch the winning films screened at the Canada’s History Forum, held annually in conjunction with the Governor General’s History Awards.

Canadians have until June 3 to view, comment on and vote for their favourite student video.

To watch the students’ videos and cast a ballot, visit

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