The land, the seasons and the availability of food affected how people grouped themselves together. The scarcity of resources in winter and early spring made it more efficient for people to travel in small groups consisting of an extended family or a few families. Family, and our relationships to one another still play a crucial role in our society. Who you are related to is important in identifying where you fit in our society. Much of our social fabric is based on these family bonds.
Social Organization over Time
The land, the seasons and the availability of food affected how people grouped themselves together. The scarcity of resources in winter and early spring made it more efficient for people to travel in small groups consisting of an extended family or a few families. People gathered in larger groups in summer, particularly during the two salmon runs when food was plentiful. This was a time of feasting, trade and fostering alliances with other groups. In fall, people came together at the site of a large caribou fence during the annual migration. They drove animals into the enclosure where they were snared then killed.
As with most Yukon First Nations, people also belonged to one of two moieties or “clans”, Wolf or Crow. Very simply, this means their society was divided into two groups, with everyone belonging to one or the other.
Babies were born in specially-built shelters. The mother leaned on a padded support during labour and was assisted by experienced women. Mothers carried their infants in back carriers made from birch bark and lined with dried moss that served as a disposable diaper.
Women possessed many skills needed for living and travelling on the land. They were foragers, collecting edible plants and berries. While men usually hunted large game, women set a variety of snares for smaller animals such as rabbits.
Men were the main hunters, trappers and fishers. As boys they had been trained and hardened to become strong, swift, accurate with a variety of weapons, and able to endure cold and discomfort during long hunts.
Elders are cherished for their wisdom, knowledge and as living links to our history, culture and traditions. Our leaders relied on the experience of elders when planning the best places to travel and hunt. On long winter evenings, elders told stories of long ago times, how the world came to be and the adventures of the creatures who created it.