Exploring Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Culture

The striking Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre was controversial when it was first being built in Dawson City — it’s not exactly a gold rush themed building.

But it was Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in themed, and it’s now thoroughly embedded in the Dawson waterfront scene.

With its stadium seating theatre, Hammerstone Gallery, Gathering Room and gift shop, the centre is a place that every visitor ought to visit.

Each summer the Gathering Room is home to a new display. This summer the display is called Trees of Life, and is based on spruce (ts’òk) and birch (hät’or) trees.

Pairs of large poles dominate the room. A banner display is fastened between each pair of trees, explaining the things that can be extracted from or made from the trees, including medicines, boats, snowshoes, shelters, fishing tools, pots, baskets and instruments for ritual practices.

Inset into niches in the large poles are a variety of items: wooden dolls, simple toys, and hunting tools such as a moose caller.

Decorating the walls of the room are fishing spears, boards for stretching skins, a canoe, a bent-wood chair, a variety of ritual tools, snowshoes of various types and sizes, and bow-and-arrow sets.

In keeping with the display, the centre offers themed talks and demonstrations by Fran Morburg-Green.

“Of Land and Sky” explores the journey of the shaman, presented with a selection of wild crafted teas, berry juices and jams. “Wild and Rosie Apothecary” deals with more medicinal subjects: salves, hydrasols, balms, bath salts, steams and soaks.

The Hammerstone Gallery contains displays that tell the story of the Hän people from the earliest days through to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Final Land Claim Agreement.

In the theatre you can view several videos that feature spectacular scenery and tell the story of the people and the land. Also in the theatre, contemporary dancer Michelle Olson will be presenting “Frost Exploding Trees Moon” three days a week.

According to RavenSpiritDance.com , “this solo dance piece follows the journey of a woman traveling along her trap line. She finds a place to set up camp, builds her temporary home, and settles into the centre of her world.”

Reaching out beyond the cultural centre, staff will be partnering with CFYT-FM to produce Radio Zho, to be hosted weekly by interpreters Tish Lindgren and Kim Joseph, with music host Wayne Lavallee. This will also be broadcast via the web at www.cfyt.ca.

You can take a short video tour of Dänojà Zho on YouTube.com – search for “Dawson Before the Gold: Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre.”

For more information about the cultural centre call 867-993-6768.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top