1912 Yukon Nuggets
Life was simpler when Pearl Keenan was growing up on her father's mink ranch near Teslin. In the days before the Alaska Highway, everything moved by dog team and snowshoes. Pearl got much of her early education on the land.
Pearl Geddes was born in 1918 at 12 Mile on the Nisutlin River. Her father George, a Scot by birth, was a trapper and mink rancher. Her mother Annie Sidney took care of her family of five in the traditional way. As a young woman, Pearl helped on the homestead in the garden and on the ranch.
Things changed dramatically in the Teslin area when the first bulldozers arrived in 1942, clearing the forest and carving a trail that they would call the Alaska Highway. Pearl Geddes married Hugh Keenan in 1947 and the couple raised three children, one of whom, Dave, became a member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
The family moved to British Columbia and Pearl began a series of interesting careers. She was a homeschool coordinator in the BC public system and later counselled prison inmates in the Vancouver area.
Now eighty-six, Pearl Keenan's CV is long and varied. When she returned to the Yukon, she taught the Tlingit language and operated summer camps for children, always focusing on the purpose of First Nations traditions.
In 1986, she served as Yukon Commissioner for Expo '86 in Vancouver. Then in 1993, it was on to one of her most cherished jobs - that of Chancellor of Yukon College.
Pearl served on many boards and committees over the years, including the Yukon First Nations Elders' Council, First Nations Education Commission, the Skookum Jim Friendship Center, and the Yukon College Elders Advisory Council.
From her work in the 1980s as a member of the newly-formed Yukon Human Rights Commission to her current place on the Council of Yukon First Nations' Elders' Advisory Council and environment board, much of her work has been of the volunteer kind, and that has suited her just fine.
Her over-riding interest in life has been working with youth, and on environmental issues. That is why she served as a guest lecturer on northern first nations culture at both the University of Alaska and the University of Regina.
While involved in youth issues, she is also extremely worried about the environment and global warming, recalling, as she does, a time in the Yukon when there were definitely four distinct seasons.
Pearl Keenan has had a many-faceted career in the Yukon and it is not over yet. But sometime in the future she will journey to Ottawa where the Governor-General will present her with a pin. For Pearl has been named a member of the Order of Canada.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.