Newcomers to our traditional territory were unaware that we had our own ways for handling disputes. They thought they were settling in a lawless land and imposed their own laws and justice system. Today we work with the territorial government on programs that draw from both our systems of justice.
In the early days, survival depended on cooperation and mutual support. Young people learned the need to show respect to the land, animals and ﬁsh. Failure to abide by this code or dä`’òlé could jeopardize success in hunting and ﬁshing. It was also important to be able to rely upon one another. People who endangered others by their behaviour could be exiled.
Laws from Outside
When the newcomers settled in our land, they came with their own laws and justice system. Reﬂecting the colonial attitudes of the time, the Mounted Police saw themselves as bringing justice and order to a lawless country. They did not consider that First Nations people already governed themselves and now were faced with foreign laws imposed by outsiders.
As with many Yukon First Nations, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in is working with the Yukon Government to incorporate new models of justice that are a blend of Canadian law and traditional values. Crimes are treated in a larger context beyond conviction and punishment.
Northwest Mounted Police on firewood detail outside Fort Constantine, 1896. The first NWMP detachment in the Yukon was built near Forty Mile in 1895.
RCMP Historical Collections Unit, Regina, SK