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The stories behind the signs

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 03/06) - A third-generation Yellowknifer is taking the city's streets to the bookstore.

Tyler Heal, 15, the writer behind Yellowknifer's Street Stories, is compiling his work into a book, called The Times Behind the Signs.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Young author Tyler Heal shows off some custom-made signs he ordered to promote his first book, The Times Behind the Signs. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo

"It's about the history behind Yellowknife street names," he said.

For the last two years, Heal has been contributing his Street Stories to Yellowknifer, exploring the stories behind the names on your favourite green aluminum signposts, from McAvoy Road to Otto Drive. Now he's ready to take things a step further.

The Times Behind the signs is due to hit book stores in January, thanks in part to a grant from the NWT Arts Council, which was announced on Friday.

"I've learned a lot about the history of Yellowknife and the different things you have to go through to get a book published," he said of the experience.

Heal said the inspiration for Street Stories was both personal and scholarly.

"I originally got started back in Grade 8.

"We had to do a heritage fair project on something about Yellowknife history and that's what I chose."

When one considers that Heal Court is named after his grandfather, who came to Yellowknife in 1939, the project seems like a natural choice. Come 2007, Heal said the book should be easy to find.

"(There will be) around 750 to 1,000 copies. We're going to donate a couple of copies to the public library, the book store and the visitor's centre."

He said all the proceeds from the book will go towards the NWT Mining Heritage Society, which helps to preserve the economic and cultural history of the North.

"In my mind, they're a really worthy group," he said. "I just thought it would be good to give something back to preserving our heritage."

Since there are more than 130 named streets (and names behind all the numbered streets) in Yellowknife, Heal said he won't be stopping any time soon. That is, until plans to study as an engineer or an architect take the Grade 10 student out of Yellowknife... for a while, at least.

"I will definitely come back to Yellowknife if I can find a job," he said.