Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in float in the Dawson City Discovery Day parade.
Our governance has adapted and evolved along with our growing population and changes in lifestyle and society. Where traditionally our leaders were people who could best provide for the group, we now have a form of government on a footing with the municipalities and territory.
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.
Our Social Order
Understanding our roles within the family and the group was important for our survival and well-being. Each individual had to know their job and do it properly. We were led by the best hunters and fishers, people who could make decisions for the good of all. When we met with other people to trade and socialize, we followed protocols that ensured peace and prosperity. Today, we have adopted a form of government similar to provincial and territorial governments but we have not forgotten our traditional social values and relationships.
Our people were part of a vast trade network that included Gwich’in people to the north, Southern Tutchone in the Kluane area, Northern Tutchone further upriver and Tanana to the southwest.
People walked hundreds of miles over an extensive network of trails to trade and visit. The Hän
traded birch bark, red ochre, hides, clothing and salmon for the much sought after native copper, obsidian from southwestern Yukon, and dentalium shells from the Coast.
Traditionally, justice was meted out by the leader of the family group with the advice of the elders. In serious cases, a person might be ordered to pay compensation for a crime or be banished from the community. When outsiders came, they brought their own form of justice with them. This was confusing to First Nations but, again, we adapted.