Beaded Portraits

Willie Joe Mbaya'ta

Willie Joe Mbaya'ta

Willie was born in the traditional village of Hutchi, Yukon one January as the Alaska Highway was being built. He was the eighth child to Hutchi’s Chief Joe and Sadie Stevens of Aishihik. He lived on the land with his family until he was taken to Whitehorse Baptist Mission when he was 8 years old.

After residential school, Willie was one of the first graduates of the Yukon Vocational School in the Automotive Mechanics program. He loved cars, and many recall the series of hot rods he owned over the years. As a young man, Willie owned his own garage and car rental – he was always an entrepreneur.

During the era of Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, Willie worked passionately with Chief Elijah Smith and the Yukon’s many leaders. One of his early roles was as President of the Yukon Native Brotherhood. He contributed to establishing the Council of Yukon Indians and while Vice-Chair he took on the Economic Development portfolio. He held an interest in tourism and business opportunities for his people that he carried throughout his career.

Willie had visions of greatness for our people. He was an innovator, brain stormer and creative thinker. He was caring and a pillar of support and the voice of his family. He is remembered as a charismatic leader, who saw the good in people and never backed down when he believed in something.