Social Organization Over Time

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. People gathered in larger groups in summer, particularly during the two salmon runs when food was plentiful. This was a time of feasting, trade and fostering alliances with other groups. In fall, people came together at the site of a large caribou fence during the annual migration. They drove animals into the enclosure where they were snared then killed.

 

In the mid-19th century, early visitors described three groups of Hän people each led by a headman or chief. Two groups—Johnny’s Band and David’s Band—were downriver in what is now Alaska; the third—the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in based at the mouth of the Klondike River—were led by a man known as Catsah or Katza. By the 1890s, Chief Isaac was the leader of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.

 

When Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in were displaced from their traditional fish camp during the Klondike gold rush, they moved to another of their traditional campsites at Moosehide. Although people continued to spend time on the land, the settlement became their base and for nearly half a century they were referred to as the Moosehide Indian Band. The Chief represented the First Nation when dealing with authorities. 

Members of David's Band, winter of 1890-91.

Bancroft Library, Davidson coll., 1946.6.17

Chief Charley, 1895.

Yukon Archives, Library and Archives Canada coll., #PA-12157