Yellowknife: The Not So Rural Town

June 12, 2017

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Great Slave Lake, as viewed from rock formation, photo by Allie May

I have now been a “Yellowknifeian” (a Yellie? A knifie?) for two weeks. Situated on Great Slave Lake, the deepest lake in North America, Yellowknife contradicts the typical rural community archetype for a variety of reasons. First of all, Yellowknife is a tapestry of cultures, traditions, and people. Residents of Yellowknife are representative of the world over, with current heritages originating from South Asia, China, Africa, the Philippines, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and more. Approximately 22% of the population has Aboriginal roots, with First Nations people representing the largest group at 10.8%. It is a multi-cultural city that offers a strong sense of community to everyone.

Secondly, Yellowknife only sounds “rural” when I listen with my Torontonian ears. Yellowknife is actually a central hub for 32 other communities within the Northwest Territories. It publishes its own newspapers, has its own radio stations (like Moose FM!), holds an annual music festival, and is the designated capital of the Northwest Territories. It is also home to approximately half of the entire territorial population.

Downtown Yellowknife, photo by Jason Pineau Photography

Yellowknife is also a hive of activity, far from a sleepy rural town. Reminiscent of the fictional town Stars Hollow in the television show “Gilmore Girls,” there are always plenty of local events going on. For example, next weekend, there is a Community BBQ and Family Fun Festival and practically the whole of Yellowknife will turn out. I have also been surprised to learn that many of the residents are closer to my age than I expected. The average age in Yellowknife is around 32.2 years, much younger than the average national age of 39.5 year. Many young people attend universities in the nearby provinces of BC and Alberta, but choose to return to Yellowknife for the summer to enjoy the sun-filled 20-hour long days and immense natural beauty.

As you can see, Yellowknife is not what I expected, and I am very pleasantly surprised.

I cannot forget to mention the people… they’re just wonderful. Kind, intelligent, and incredibly welcoming. Individuals actually greet you on the street! I have started to really embrace the close-knit community vibe here which is very different from the city life that I have known. In only a fortnight, I have been invited to dinner parties, pub nights, and social gatherings. As someone who veers on the shy side, I usually have to really push myself to reach out to people when I’m in a new setting. It has really made it easier to make friends when people are this friendly and open.

Great Slave Lake, photo by Allie May

One of my favourite pieces of advice, which can be applied to so many situations, is to leverage your resources. I arrived here knowing only two people – Dr. Ewan Affleck, my preceptor, and Dr. Shireen Mansouri, my house host. Although they are both kind and amazing hosts, they can’t exactly be my personal tour guides in Yellowknife. As such, I have leveraged their knowledge of other students currently situated in the town, which has led me to an entirely new group of people.

I’m very much looking forward to getting more acquainted with this town called Yellowknife and its people.

-Allie Margaret May, MHI

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