In the sixties and seventies, they were like rock stars. They attracted public attention and adulation wherever they went. They were the "out of town" dog racers who mushed into Whitehorse in colourful clothes, with happy dogs - tails wagging - as they arrived for the show.
The show was the Sourdough Rendezvous dog races. The mushers and their malamutes were kings of the trail. Among them each year was a smallish, smiling man from Teslin named Sam Johnson.
Sam was often an also-ran in the company of Stephen Frost, Paul Ben Kassi and Wilfred Charlie. But he was no less a competitor. Win or lose, Sam Johnson was a happy musher.
Sam was born and raised in Teslin and has dedicated his life to working with and coaching people of all ages. He has always been involved in sports and spent countless hours teaching young people how to run and care for race dogs.
He also teaches Yukon kids the traditional game of stick gambling and this passion branched into coaching Dene Games teams in the Arctic Winter Games. Hand games involve guessing and deceiving and is played to a chorus of drums. He believes that what is important is not so much the opportunity to compete as it is the chance to become proud of your efforts.
Sam's other passion is the sport of Archery, where he has been both an athlete and a coach at the North American Indigenous Games.
He spends a lot of time visiting schools all over the Territory encouraging students to take part in the sport. He tries to instill leadership qualities that include honor, trust, respect and integrity.
Sam has also had a long political career in the Yukon. He was Chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council for fourteen years. He was a Member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and holds the honor of being the first First Nation Speaker of the Legislative Assembly for the Yukon Government.
Sam is an active Tlingit dancer who passed on the values of the Tlingit dance and heritage to both young and old and has travelled the world performing and sharing these values.
Sam Johnson was named Chancellor of Yukon College in 2004 and, in 2003, he was presented with the Yukon's Commissioner's award.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin