Issue: 2016-11-30, PHOTO: by Destiny Clennett
Caribou around Old Crow
My name is Destiny Clennett. I am 15-years-old and am Vuntut Gwich'in. I am working hard towards saving my culture and the connections my people had to the land. Let me tell you who my people are now and who we used to be.
Through our people, through our land, through our caribou we are the Vuntut Gwich'in First Nation People. We stick together, help each other and work together as much as we can to make a healthy, hopeful community. We teach our young ones the ways of the land, our caribou, our way of dancing, and most importantly, our language. There are about 1,900 Vuntut Gwich'in people across Canada and some in the US. Only 1,300 know and speak the language. Most of my people have forgotten or were never taught our language. Sadly most of my family up in Old Crow don't know the language fully.
They also don't understand the connection we have to the land and Caribou. The kids in Old Crow start smoking around ages 13 and 14 and drinking at ages 15 to 16. In Old Crow there is not much to do, all the things the kids there can do is school and try to pick fights as much as they can. My people are falling apart quickly now. Many of us are lost by, car crash, vileness against women and much more.
Who my People Were:
About 500 years ago my people hunted, fished and helped each other with everything. We never left each other's side, we all lived close together and were there when trouble occurred. We trusted one another and loved one another equally. We never let anyone down, we didn't hate each other for one dumb reason, and we never harmed others’ space.
The elders would teach our young ones old stories about their past as a child, or their parents’ past. They would teach them our ways of life, how we dance, who we look out for, what we hunt for, and our language. The children would learn all the important things and pass them onto their kids. The Elders always made sure the kids knew all the stories, songs, dances by heart so by the time they were 13 they knew what to hunt, how to hunt, how to dance, where to find salmon, and everything else.
Back then everything was different from now, and I'll tell you how.
The work for the female:
The woman didn't hunt or fish like the men did, but, in way you can say they did a lot more than the men. The men always worked outside (hunting, fishing, trapping, tracking, etc.) as in the woman did much more. They were always around the house looking after the little ones, cooking for their family, making baby belts, teaching the kids how to speak, teaching the kids how to bead, cleaning around the home (my people didn't live in houses like the ones now. We lived in tents) making the fire, making clothes, washing clothes, and making sure everything is safe for the family.
You can see through the years, how my people have changed. This is what I am trying to save. My language, special connections to my land and caribou, hunting etc.