New performance about First Nations’ people and history in Yukon wows audiences

Dreaming Roots showcases First Nations pride and resilience through performances in dance, music, storytelling and beyond.


From Kaska drumming, Inland Tlingit dance and even a Vuntut Gwitchin spin on the Red River jig, a new stage production on First Nations’ people and history in Yukon is receiving rave reviews.

Dreaming Roots is a performance by about First Nations people in Yukon, incorporating works from over 50 Indigenous artists in dance, music, storytelling and more.

“It’s beautiful. It’s their vision of history of this place, and its people,” says co-director Diyet van Lieshout. “It’s hard not to cry because I get to see (the performers) growth.”

Produced by Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association, and directed by van Lieshout and Alejandro Ronceria, the performance tells the tale of the past and present of First Nations’ people in the territory, as well as their dreams of the future.

Dreaming Roots had an initial two-day run from June 26 to 27 where it premiered at the Yukon Arts Centre. The premiere happened alongside with the Adäka Cultural Festival and the Arctic Arts Summit, where it received positive reviews from audiences.

“This work is with (the preformers) and its their creation. It’s traditional, it’s new, it’s contemporary, it’s visionary. It really speaks to the climate of our Yukon society,” van Lieshout says.

Performers come from all 14 First Nations in Yukon and range in age from youth to elders. Dreaming Roots’ cast was also challenged to create new works for the show that hadn’t been seen before.

The 75-minute production includes a song about the impacts of residential school in the territory by Whitehorse based hip hop duo Vision Quest; a salmon dance by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Hän Singers; and a prayer song and drum dance by the Kaska Drummers.

Dreaming Roots also builds on What the Land Remembers, a show by First Nations people from Yukon who performed on international stages at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Van Lieshout says the performance was also a way for cast members to get mentorship in areas such as costume design and dance, as well as exposure.

“(For example) the Kaska drummers, bringing young men aboard who haven’t had the opportunity to be on a stage like this and preform like this outside of their community,” van Lieshout says.

The show will later travel to all Yukon communities and across Canada, though dates have yet to be confirmed.

Van Lieshout says ultimately the goal of the show is to encourage the next generation of First Nations preformers in the territory.

“I would love for people to be inspired. I would love for a child to be sitting out here and go ‘I want to do that.’”

Reporter / Whitehorse

Sara Connors is originally from Nova Scotia and has a Journalism degree from the University of King’s College in Halifax. After graduation she worked in South Korea for two years as an English Language teacher and freelance journalist. After she returned home in 2019 she worked behind the scenes at CTV Atlantic in Halifax before joining APTN's Yukon bureau in July 2020.

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