Our people are moving forward on many fronts. With the ratification of our Land Claim and Self-Government agreements, we embrace new opportunities and find innovative ways to draw upon our traditions and culture.
Connections to the Land
Our people honour our ancestral ties to our homelands. Even though we may live in town and work in an office, we consider the land to be our heritage and our focal point. Our youth learn a combination of traditional stewardship and modern harvesting and safety practices at various hunting, fishing and trapping camps. We ensure our Elders have opportunities to spend time on the land as well as sharing their knowledge and stories with our citizens and visitors from afar.
With its gravel streets, boardwalks and boom town era buildings, Dawson City seems the epitome of a Klondike Gold Rush town. Less obvious are the presence and stories of the original inhabitants. These are embodied in a distinctive building on the Dawson waterfront, Dänojà Zho or “Long Ago House”. Its design draws on older traditions such as fish camps and traditional winter shelters. Inside, it is a hub for Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in culture with dramatic displays and innovative programming.
As with many other First Nations, one of our greatest challenges has been documenting and fostering our language. The people from this area were originally Hän speakers although today our citizens have ancestors with other linguistic roots. While early missionaries and others documented some of our vocabulary, it was not until we began working with linguists from the Yukon Native Language Centre in the 1970s that the Hän language as spoken in our area was put into a standardized written form.
Because our ancestors lacked the temperate climate or material wealth of west coast peoples, they could not build permanent settlements or produce enduring works such as totem poles. Everything they created was portable, functional, and crafted and repaired with materials collected from the environment. Nothing was wasted and people honoured the plants, fish and animals that sustained them.
A key part of our renewal has been coming to terms with and healing from the wrongs experienced by our people over several generations. In many ways we were treated like second class citizens in our own land. We were isolated from our culture and heritage, and our families were torn apart through the forcible removal of our children to residential schools and adoptive homes. We are working to foster healing and reconciliation on many levels and for all ages.
Students sit around a campfire to hear elders’ stories, they receive lessons in hunting and boating safety, and they learn the importance of showing respect to the Earth for its bounty. All of these lessons are offered at Robert Service School in Dawson City, developed and delivered with its Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in partners.
Celebrating National Aboriginal Day at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, June 21, 2006.