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Some of the local volunteers in Haines Junction, Yukon, who helped sew wolf fur pompoms for Team Yukon’s toques. (Mike Rudyk) It was just by chance that Lisa Preto came up with the idea to sew real fur pompoms on Team Yukon’s Arctic Winter Games hats.

She was at an Alsek Renewable Council meeting last year in Haines Junction, and says the group was talking about utilizing the pelts coming out of the local wolf trapping program.

"At the meeting, I was sewing pompoms and they said, ‘oh, we should do something with those,’" Preto recalled.

Preto is a trapper and often sews fur, including pompoms for hats — but she’d never taken on such a big job. She would need to sew 400 pompoms, for all the toques to be worn by athletes and staff. She’d also need an additional 150, to sell to the public to cover costs. ‘I have been dreaming about it for a long time seeing real fur on the Yukon uniforms and seeing how different the pom poms are,’ said Lisa Preto. (Mike Rudyk) Preto decided to ask for help from Haines Junction community members.

The volunteers had just a few weeks before the Feb. 22 deadline. Preto decided to make it into a competition called the "Haines Junction Pom Pom Challenge."

For every 10 pompoms made, a volunteer had their name entered in a draw for a gift certificate for food and gas.

"Volunteers have taken pompom kits which have all the supplies to make ten pompoms," Preto said. "And they took them away and sewed them in their own houses, and now they are all coming back in."

Preto even posted an instructional video online, for the volunteers. Culture and tradition Monica Krieger, renewable resource manager with The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, says the project makes good use of a Yukon resource.

"Trapping has been an important part of culture and traditions for many thousands of years," she said. Monica Krieger says the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Alsek Renewable Resource Council want to keep locally-harvested furs in the Yukon. (Mike Rudyk/CBC) "So we want to keep encouraging people to get out there and get trapping, and to see how the furs they provide can be used in local crafts, and seen on Yukon people."

The First Nations and Alsek Renewable Resource Council oversee a wolf-trapping initiative, to encourage community members to get out on the land, and practice land stewardship. The program is also meant to help the moose population recover in the Alsek area.

Preto says she is happy to be able to use local fur for her project.

"When wolves are trapped, they either get sent off to tanning and sold, or they get sent off to the auction and we don’t see them again," she said.

"I have been dreaming about it for a long time, seeing real fur on the Yukon uniforms and seeing how different the pompoms are … seeing that real fur is being used instead of faux fur or yarn pompoms — these look really big and really impressive."

The South Slave Arctic Winter Games begin Mar. 18 in Fort Smith and Hay River, N.W.T. The volunteers have made more than 500 pompoms. (Mike Rudyk)

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