Because our ancestors lacked the temperate climate or material wealth of west coast peoples, they could not build permanent settlements or produce enduring works such as totem poles. Everything they created was portable, functional, and crafted and repaired with materials collected from the environment. Nothing was wasted and people honoured the plants, fish and animals that sustained them.
Our most important resources were the skills that allowed us to earn a living everywhere we travelled, and the knowledge of our elders. Drawing on the oral tradition – stories transmitted through generations – elders told of how the world came to be, explained the relationships among humans and animals, and described how to live properly and respectfully in the world.
In many ways, our life was our art and the land our inspiration. There is compelling beauty as well as function in the organic shapes and designs of dome shelters, birchbark canoes, snowshoes, fish traps, spruce root weavings and the hide and fur clothing decorated with quillwork, beading, ochre and fringes.
Inspired by their heritage and enriching their culture, today’s Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in artists include storytellers, film-makers, dancers, visual artists, tailors and singers. Many of their works appear in collections and on stages throughout the world.
Michelle Olson during dance performance at Dänojà Zho.
Elder Edward Roberts with drum, National Aboriginal Day, 21 June 2009.
Tufting with caribou hair.