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Journalist, justice of the peace
Edith Josie has been awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal (1967), the Yukon Historical Museums Award (1994) and the Aboriginal Achievement Award in the Heritage and Spirituality category (2000). She is a member of the Order of Canada (1995) and was appointed Justice of the Peace for Old Crow in 1957, a post she held for seven years.
For over 40 years, Edith Josie has written a column for the Whitehorse Star, entitled "Here Are the News." Her column describes the life of the people in Old Crow, a village in the Yukon located on the Porcupine River, 200 kilometres south of the Arctic Ocean and 130 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. The 300-odd inhabitants of the village of Old Crow are mainly of the Loucheaux people, of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (or People of the Lakes). Edith Josie's columns made a significant contribution to bringing the once-isolated village of Old Crow to the attention of the outside world and improving the life of its residents.
Edith Josie was born in 1921 in Eagle, Alaska, to a traditional Gwitchin family. She left school at 14 years of age, after having completed fifth grade, but continued to learn how to read and write from her brother Suzi Paul. Her father also taught her how to hunt and stretch animal skins, which were then sold to provide for the family's needs. In 1940, the family moved to Old Crow.
Edith Josie never married, but raised three children and looked after her parents. She continued to earn her living through the sale of animal skins. In 1957, she was appointed Justice of the Peace for Old Crow.
She started to write for the Whitehorse Star in 1962, after a visit to Old Crow by the Reverend James Simon and his wife Sarah, who had been asked by the newspaper to find a correspondent in the village. Sarah Simon offered the job to Edith Josie, as she "did not have a husband to look after her."
Edith Josie writes her column in English, but uses Gwitchin syntax, without paying too much attention to spelling, grammar or punctuation. What is more important is the story and the way it is told. As well, the sincerity and compassion with which Edith Josie writes of her friends and neighbours make her stories quite touching and amusing.
Her column has appeared in newspapers in Toronto, Edmonton, Fairbanks (Alaska) and California. She has become known in the United States. In 1965, Life Magazine published a four-page article on Edith Josie entitled "Everybody Sure Glad".
Edith Josie's column has been translated into German, Italian, Spanish and Finnish, and her work has been recognized around the world. Her articles have also been published in a book called Here Are the News by Edith Josie.
Before Edith Josie started writing stories, there was no transportation to and from Old Crow. Now there are regular flights that bring mail and passengers. A college has also opened its doors. Connections among the village's residents also seem to have developed. In short, Edith Josie's deceptively simple stories have made an important contribution to her community's development.
Becker Davidson, Susan. "Old Crow Writer Makes the News." Anglican Journal. Vol. 122, No. 1 (January 1996), p. 6.
"Biography - Edith Josie: Here Are the News." First Nations Drum www.firstnationsdrum.com/fall2000/bio_Josie.htm(accessed June 3, 2008).
Buckley, Andrea. "Lady Writer Takes Top Award." Windspeaker. Vol.13, No. 9 (January 1996), p. 8.
Hamblin, Dora Jane. "Everybody Sure Glad." Life Magazine. Vol. 58, No. 20 (May 21, 1965), p. 69.
Josie, Edith. Here Are the News. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1966.
Josie, Edith. Old Crow News: The Best of Edith Josie, 1963. Whitehorse, Yukon: Whitehorse Star, 1963[?].
Josie, Edith. Old Crow News: The Best of Edith Josie, 1964. Whitehorse, Yukon: Whitehorse Star, 1964[?].
Josie, Edith. Old Crow News: The Best of Edith Josie, 1965. Whitehorse, Yukon: Whitehorse Star, 1965[?].
Josie, Edith. "A Short Autobiography by Edith Josie." Old Crow Some of the Vuntut Gwitchin. www.oldcrow.ca/edith.htm
(accessed June 3, 2008).
Livingstone, Roxanne. "Here Are the News: The Story of Edith Josie." The Yukoner. No. 17 (March 2001), p. 13-16.
Lusty, Eddy. "Yukon Elder Chronicles Life in Tiny Community." Windspeaker. Vol. 12, No. 9 (July 18-31, 1994), p. R3.
National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF). "Edith Josie, CM, Heritage and Spirituality" National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. www.naaf.ca/html/e_josie_e.html
(accessed June 3, 2008).
Porsild, Charlene. "Edith Josie: These Are the News." Framing Our Past: Canadian Women's History in The Twentieth Century. Edited by Sharon Anne Cook, Lorna R. McLean and Kate O'Rourke. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001.