The Yukon is the ancestral home to many different First Nations. Often, these peoples are identified according to their linguistic roots, many of which are derived from the Athapaskan family of languages. The speakers of the Hän language lived in an area around the Yukon River drainage in the western Yukon and eastern Alaska. In the late 19th century, there were three main groups of Hän: two in Alaska and the third group, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, were based at the mouth of the Klondike or Tr’ondëk River.
For many years, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in were known as the Moosehide or Dawson Indian Band. In 1995, the First Nation officially adopted their original Hän name, affirming their linguistic heritage as well as their ancestral ties to the village at the mouth of the Klondike. Nowadays many Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens also trace their origins to Gwich’in and Northern Tutchone speaking ancestors who originated north or east of our traditional territory.
WE ARE THE TR’ONDËK HWËCH’IN
The name, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, tells the story of our ancestral occupation of the ancient site located at the mouth of present day Klondike on the left limit. Tr’o means hammer rock used to drive the salmon weir stakes into the mouth of the river, ndëk is the “river” part and Hwëch’in means the “people”. Liberally translated, it means: “the people who lived at the mouth of the Klondike.” - Gerald Isaac, February 1999
the province of Nova Scotia, about the same size as Latvia and slightly smaller than Ireland. While we legally have title to only a small amount of this immense area, we consider ourselves to be stewards of this entire territory and have a strong interest in its management and the health of its resources.
Maps of the Yukon showing territorial boundaries usually have lines separating different language groups. It is important to know several things about these maps.
First, linguistic maps … refer to language groups, not to separate territorial or political groups. To some extent language boundaries coincide with river drainages … But boundaries between language groups are only approximate. The boundaries are never as firm or clear as they appear on maps. - Julie Cruikshank, Reading Voices, 1991
Since the signing of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in land claims final agreement in 1998, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in also refers to a self-governing First Nation responsible for managing its own affairs within its traditional territory. Today most of our 1100 citizens are based in the Dawson City area but our people also live in many other places in the Yukon, Canada, and abroad.
To earn their living, people travelled over great areas of land during the seasonal round. These mountains, rivers and valleys make up the traditional territory of our people. Today, “traditional territory” usually refers to a negotiated tract of land with a fixed boundary that has been identified as part of an individual First Nation’s land claim agreement.
Our traditional territory measures 64,294 sq. km (24,230 sq. mi.) This may seem very large because it definitely is! This is an area larger than the State of West Virginia, larger than