Join Yukon entrepreneur Lasänmą (Katie Johnson), member of Kluane First Nation, Wolf Clan, owner of the planning company Bella Elite and Director of Programs and Partnerships as well as a producer for the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association (YFNCT) as we catch up since our last discussion that occurred over two years ago.
(1:14) Katie discusses co-founding the Adäka Cultural Festival in 2011, which celebrates Yukon First Nation performing artists, visual artists, knowledge keepers, elders, and youth. It was cancelled the last two years due to the covid pandemic and will be relaunching this year.r
(3:58) In their role with YFNCT, Katie shared the uncertainty everyone was feeling and how the team rallied together in crisis mode to come up with ways to help visual arts artists as they knew they would not be able to host any events. During this time, YFNCTA launched the Yukon Arts Brand which highlights Indigenous Yukon First Nations artists and recognizes a product as being authentically made by Yukon First Nations so buyers can be assured of who created it.
(6:39) Katie shares their first memory of the pandemic. They express that they are super optimistic when it comes to life but having to cancel the Adäka Cultural Festival was incredibly hard due to how everyone had put their heart and soul into planning it. As an Indigenous person, not being able to gather was a heartbreaking moment for them.
(9:18) Katie discusses the most challenging public health measure being the capacity constraints. As an event planner, only being able to have 10 people in a room is incredibly limiting. They also share when the borders shut down, when no one could leave the territory or come up here to visit, led to them making the choice to pause their events company work.
(11:51) Katie reflects on the business adaptation they are most proud of. They have always wanted to create another performing arts show similar to what they produced for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Visual arts have been exploding in terms of First Nation fashion and jewellery, which has continued in popularity, however they wanted to create a space for performing artists (storytellers, singers, drummers, etc.) to create their work. The process was focused on supporting the artists and providing the resources they need instead of focusing on the show itself.
(19:52) Considering business models, Katie expresses their business does not necessarily follow a specific business model, however they are a connector and facilitator when it comes to people. What they have discovered through the whole process in planning events is to be patient and take the time to reflect on what they are doing. They have found themselves to be more grateful for connection and that people are reconnecting again.
(26:48) As a cultural leader, Katie sees opportunity in investing in their own teachings, focusing on learning their Southern Tutchone language so they can create that legacy for their daughter and the next generation.
(29:19) To better position themselves in the new economy, Katie has plans to develop a framework around building a team and launching an international Indigenous festival that explores themes of connection around the world as Indigenous people. Their intention is to be a part of the generation that plants the seeds for the next ten years.
(32:37) Thinking about leadership, Katie believes that leadership is always within you, and you just need to be sparked or inspired to nurture that peace. They feel that it is their responsibility to bring other upcoming leaders to the forefront.
(34:58) As the Yukon economy works to rebuild, Katie has observed organizations banding together and starting to communicate and they would love to see that continue. The economy is small, and everyone is interconnected so it is important that we all work together.
(37:13) Katie’s advice for emerging entrepreneurs? Just keep on going. Trust your own self, your gut, your heart. If you are authentic and true to who you are, then you are always going to succeed.
(38:50) What wellness practice keep Katie grounded? Being with like-minded people who are optimistic and find the good in everything. Life gets hard and it is important we support one another and be kind.
(40:44) Closing out the conversation, Katie expresses their gratefulness in coming back for another interview and recognizes that there is a lot of grief within our communities due to the loss of many elders. Their thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that is struggling right now and want to remind people that they are not alone.
Thank you for watching!
To learn more about Katie and their business, visit their websites at: