Jerry Alfred, a Northern Tutchone musician, was named "Keeper of the Songs" at birth and performs traditional Tutchone music by adding twentieth century Western influences. From You Tube.
Some 19th-century Tutchone, influenced by the Coast TLINGIT with whom they traded, had plank dwellings, but most lived in double lean-tos of brush or domed skin tents. Since dog traction came only with European contact, belongings were limited to those which could be easily carried or made on the spot, such as the snares used to catch animals of all sizes. Much of the technology was quite expendable, but the knowledge of how, where and when to use it made it highly efficient. Some Tutchone had raw copper for making knives and arrowheads; the majority used bone and antler. Women made fine birchbark containers and beautiful tailored skin clothing.
Early Social and Political Organization
Descent is organized through the female line and lineages are grouped into exogamous moieties, Crow and Wolf. Traditionally, there was no formal political organization, but strong chiefs attracted the most followers. Wealth-based rank began to develop in the 19th century as the result of trading and intermarriage with Coast Tlingit seeking furs to sell to Europeans on the coast. Tutchone nearest the coast were incorporated into clans bearing Tlingit names.
Dietary and various social observances marked birth, puberty and death. Children learned early how to maintain good relations with the powerful spirits of animals and other natural phenomena on whose good will the welfare of humans depended. SHAMANS, especially, enlisted the help of strong spirit powers to locate game and cure illness.
Northern and Southern Tutchone are primarily spoken in northwestern British Columbia and the Yukon; Southern Tutchone is more common and is taught to children in Kluane communities. People expressed their world view in singing, dancing, oratory and extensive oral narrative and are now publishing literature and and orthography has been developed by the Yukon Native Language Centre.
The influx of miners and explorers during the KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH of the late 1890s and building of the ALASKA HIGHWAY in 1942 drastically altered Tutchone culture. The Aboriginal people gradually shifted to a dual economy based on wage labour as well as hunting, fishing and trapping.
Land Claims Settlement
The Northern Tutchone Tribal Council comprises the Nacho Nyak Dun, Selkirk, and Little Salmon Carmacks First Nations. The Nacho Nyak Dun became self-governing in 1993, followed by Selkirk, and Little Salmon Carmacks First Nations in 1997. The Southern Tutchone comprise the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN), Kluane, and the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nations. In 1993 the CAFN's and the federal government signed the First Nation's Final Agreement confirming the CAFN's rights to their traditional lands and resources. In 1998, Ta'an Kwach'an Council separated from the Whitehorse Indian Band and became an independent band, recognized by the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The Ta'an Kwach'an Council gained self-government and rights to the Ta'an Kwach'an lands and resources in 2002, and the Kluane First Nation signed their self-government agreement in 2003.
Tutchone politician Judy Gingell was the first Aboriginal Commissioner of Yukon and served from 1995-2000.
Author CATHARINE MCCLELLAN
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Languages of Canada
A comprehensive online database of languages currently in use in Canada. Also provides details about extinct languages. Check out the "language maps" for more information. Based on "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition." From SIL International, a US website.
Yukon Native Language Centre
A superb multimedia site that offers an introduction to native languages in the Yukon. Features the Gwich'in, Hän, Kaska, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Tagish, and Upper Tanana languages. Includes information about training programs for teachers and the public.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
A Look Back in Time - The Archaeology of Fort Selkirk
An informative guide to the ancient and traditional history of the Fort Selkirk area, one of the Yukon’s most important historic sites. A Government of Yukon website.
Council of Yukon First Nations
Council of Yukon First Nations offers an overview of the history, culture, and current organization of First Nations populations and communities in the region.
A guide to historical highlights of Burwash Landing, a community situated on the southwest shore of Kluane Lake in the Yukon.