One of our skills was the ability to travel lightly and quickly set up a variety of lightweight shelters including lean-tos and brush shelters. On winter hunting trips we set up portable dome houses. Sewn together caribou skins were stretched over a framework of flexible willow poles. A hole in the roof was centred over a fireplace allowing smoke to escape. Snow could be banked around the exterior for insulation.
Some people occupied moss houses from late fall to mid-winter. Two families built and used these dwellings that started with a square excavation about three metres square and twenty centimetres deep. The structure was framed with corner posts and two posts at opposite ends of the building supporting a ridge pole about three metres high. They lashed beams to these poles for the roof and, for the walls, lashed together split poles. Large squares of moss were piled around the walls for insulation then the roof was covered with earth moss and brush.
When we began dealing with European traders, we began using canvas tents and used axes to build log cabins. Some early photos show shelters that are a hybrid of canvas and brush. Today we are building innovative, energy-efficient homes for our citizens.
Winter encampment on the Klondike River, 1898. Tappan Adney artist.
From: Tappan Adney, The Klondike Stampede, 1900
Canvas and brush shelters at Tr’ochëk, 1895. W.D. Johns photographer
Yukon Archives, Robert Coutts fonds, 82/358 #2