Tahltan Strong benefit concerts raise more than $86k for Telegraph Creek

An evacuation order for the community and surrounding area, issued in August, remains in effect

The Tahltan Strong fundraising concerts held in Whitehorse last month raised more than $86,000 in support for Telegraph Creek recovery efforts.

The Tahltan Central Government made the announcement in a press release Oct. 4.

According to the release, Tahltan Strong organizer Jacqueline Shorty presented a cheque for $86,160.16 to Tahltan Central Government president Chad Norman Day and Tahltan Band chief Rick McLean in a ceremony in Vancouver Oct. 4.

“We are truly humbled by the outpouring of support our Tahltan Nation has received, from surrounding Nations, from our partners and from the general public,” Day says in the press release. “Thank you to everyone for donating and standing by us in our time of need.”

McLean was also thankful.

“We, the Tahltan people, and in particular the community of Telegraph creek are very grateful for the amazing outpouring of generosity from the people of the Yukon and especially Jacqui Shorty and the volunteers who worked with her to make this all happen,” he said in the release.

In another press release, Shorty said she was “pulled by a force greater than myself to help in any way that I could.”

“My children are a part of the Tahltan nation, our visits to Telegraph Creek have tied our spirits to the land there, such a sacred place and such a sacred people,” she said.

“What a blessing to have been able to raise that much in the Yukon. Thank God for the volunteers who worked alongside me, they definitely played a huge role in our fundraising… I can’t thank the Tahltan Strong Benefit Concert team enough for having faith throughout the entirety of the planning. I am humbled and honored by their dedication.”

Telegraph Creek and the surrounding area have been under an evacuation order since early August as wildfires ripped through the region.

Torrye McKenzie, communications lead with the Tahltan Band Council’s Emergency Operations Centre, said in an interview Oct. 9 that the council will be thoroughly assessing the situation on the ground and the needs of residents before deciding what to do with the donations.

While some residents have been given permits to re-enter the community to gather necessary belongings, McKenzie said no one has been allowed to properly return to Telegraph Creek yet.

“Right now, we’re waiting on the insurance company to confirm contractors for the site clean-up as well as the rebuild, so until we have those in place, we can’t release a date (for when residents can return) … It’s hard to confirm when there aren’t those structures in place quite yet,” she said.

In Telegraph Creek, the fires destroyed 27 buildings, including 21 homes, two businesses, a daycare and a church. Overall, more than 160 structures have been lost in the area, including fish camps, historical sites, grave sites and seasonal cottages.

While the fires, some of which are still burning, are no longer considered a threat, McKenzie said that the community is still not “completely safe” yet.

“There’s construction going on, there’s continual monitoring and hazard assessments being done … The water has come back and the water is consumable now but there’s just so much going on in the community that the evacuation order is still in effect because the homes are not livable at this point,” she said.

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