From the Yukon River to the Blackstone Uplands, from a host of rivers and lakes to the soaring peaks of the Tombstone Mountains, our land abounds in a variety of landscapes and resources. In addition to the beauty that nourishes our souls, we have abundant clean water, food from fish, animals and plants, and everything necessary to fulfill our needs.
During the annual round of hunting, fishing and gathering plants, our people travelled vast distances from river valleys through mountain passes up to the high country, travelling hundreds of kilometres throughout the year. Mostly they were on foot wearing hide moccasins. In winter, they also wore snowshoes made of babiche and sinew netted onto birch frames. Hunters wore larger snowshoes to break trail, smaller snowshoes were used on broken trails. Dogs helped pack our gear, wearing packsacks in summer or hauling sleds in winter. In later years, we adopted toboggans and dogteams.
When thousands of newcomers came into our traditional territory, they settled on or mined many of our traditional hunting and fishing sites. As well as limiting our access to the land, the many newcomers were competing for the resources upon which we relied. Destruction of habitats changed the travel patterns of animals as well as decreasing their numbers. The Klondike valley was deforested with wood being used for dwellings, heating, and fuel for mining and steamboats. Wood now had to be cut far upriver then floated down to Dawson City. A variety of changing hunting and fishing regulations made it ever more difficult to continue to roam the land in search of food.
Life on the Land
At the core of our identity is the land that has sustained us and our forebears for thousands of years. It is impossible to overstate the depth of our connection to our homeland. Despite the many changes that came with the great influx of newcomers who occupied much of our territory and tried to “civilize” us, we have kept this connection and continue to work hard to protect it.
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 used 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.
Snowshoes all ready to go at Nӓnjӓk Ch’ëhòląy or Land of Plenty.
View of Tr’ochëk in autumn.
Dänojà Zho staff sing welcoming song at seasonal opening of the centre, May 2015.
Midnight Arts photo
High bush cranberries.