Yukon Register of Historic PlacesYRHP

Archdeacon Mcdonald Memorial Church And St. Luke's Church

Construction Period: From 1906 to 1939

Designation Level: Territorial

in Old Crow

Archdeacon McDonald Memorial Church (1926) and St Luke’s Church (1959) are log buildings with gable roofs which stand in proximity to each other’, situated prominently and facing the Porcupine River in the Yukon community of Old Crow. The historic site includes the two buildings located on surveyed parcel Lot 2 Group 1302, 42623 CLSR YT.

Construction Period: From 1906 to 1939        Designation Level: Territorial

These buildings are a significant record of early Anglican missionary and church incorporation into the Vuntut Gwitchin culture, and the continued importance of the church to the community of Old Crow. In 1926, as more people based their seasonal livelihood from Old Crow, the Archdeacon McDonald Memorial Church was built to serve the growing community. St. Luke’s was built to replace it in 1959 and served as a place of worship until 2012.

These churches were primary gathering places for social and religious events in Old Crow over the years. Prominent Gwich’in catechists, deacons, and ministers, including Julius Kendi, Joe Kyikavichik, and Ellen Bruce travelled far across the Gwich’in territory to minister to remote communities and camps. When in Old Crow they based their work from these churches. The churches also provided space for the Women’s Auxiliary, formed in 1929 by Persis Kendi. The Vuntut Gwitchin women were a social force within both the life of the church and as leaders in the community.

Archdeacon McDonald Memorial Church is named for Archdeacon Robert McDonald who ministered in northern Canada between 1871-1905, and was appointed Archdeacon of the Mackenzie Diocese in 1875. With the help of Gwich’in people, he and his wife Julia Kutag translated religious materials into Gwich’in dialects. This work increased Gwich’in participation in church activities across their traditional territory and established a literate tradition for the Gwich’in that continues today.

Archdeacon McDonald Memorial Church and St. Luke’s Church are excellent examples of northern church construction in the Yukon. Locally built largely with local materials, sometimes salvaged from other buildings, both churches are built in a functional vernacular log style, indicative of the limited building resources available in the remote Yukon community. Community members collected the logs used for the buildings, built the churches, and maintained them over the years. This is particularly evident by the various construction techniques used in the earlier Archdeacon McDonald Memorial Church. The later constructed St. Luke’s was built using piece sur piece construction—likely the last to employ this method in the Yukon. St. Luke’s comparatively larger massing and complex construction techniques reflect changing settlement patterns with the establishment of Old Crow as many Gwich’in took up permanent residence in the community.

Together the churches provide evidence of the growth and establishment of the Anglican Church within the Vuntut Gwitchin Traditional Territory, and are a testament to the complex legacy of Anglican missionary and church in the Yukon.