Last month Teslin Tlingit Council hosted a huge Ha Kus Teyea celebration with thousands visiting Teslin.
In the months leading up to it, I invited many Yukoners to go. When told that it was at The Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre, many told me they have never been there. Only two hours from Whitehorse, it’s worth a visit.
The centre is 3 kilometres west of Teslin on the Alaska Highway, overlooking Teslin Lake. It opened in 2001 with five totem poles simultaneously raised at the entrance. These poles represent the five clans of the Teslin Tlingit peoples.
The Great Hall houses exhibits, audio stories of their mask collection, artist demonstrations, and a gift store. The centre is staffed with heritage interpreters who are available to discuss the exhibits and provide more information.
Pauline Sidney, a Tlingit citizen, is an interpreter at the centre. She loves to share her culture and if you are lucky, you may catch her making fresh bannock. She even gets fan mail.
“We learned so much from Pauline at the Heritage [Centre] Museum about your culture,” wrote Rita, Norman and Marina Riess from Chicago, Illinois.
The Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. between June 1 and Sept. 1.
There is also a gem of a little museum in Teslin.
The George Johnston Museum is on the Alaska Highway just north of the Nisutlin Bay Bridge and is “identified by a signature Wolf Head in the Tlingit art style sign,” says the website.
George Johnston was well known for getting the first car in Teslin before there was a highway to the village – it was barged in.
He paid locals to build a road and created Teslin Taxi. When the highway was being built, the army was surprised to learn that there was already a road there and it became part of the Alaska Highway.
Johnston was also an accomplished photographer and you will enjoy looking at his portrait of his people. Also enjoy the galleries of local exhibits, dioramas and artifacts honouring the lives of George Johnston, the Inland Tlingit and other Teslin Lake residents.
The museum has a small theatre, featuring films by and about the Tlingit people. Here you will learn about why Johnston painted his car white in the winter.
The George Johnston Museum is open June to August, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The Yukon Motel at the bridge in Teslin houses the Yukon Wildlife Gallery. Don’t be startled by the life-size bear cub at the entrance.
It’s a wonderful display of Yukon animals. If you are tempted to stay another day, book a cabin mansion located on the bay behind the motel.
They are luxurious and a special place to stay. Also, get a loaf of homemade bread at the restaurant.
The Yukon Motel is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, but the restaurant is open to 9 p.m.
Finally, visit one of the oldest operating stores in the Yukon, now owned by Eric and Kelly Morris.
The Nisutlin Trading Post at Mile 804 of the Alaska Highway has been operating continuously since before the Alaska Highway was built in 1942, even before the Taylor & Drury store was opened.
“It used to be at the mouth of the Nisutlin River in 1903 because of trappers coming off their trap lines,” says Eric Morris. “In 1908 it moved to Teslin.”
The Nisutlin Trading Post has always been owned by people living in the local community.
The most unusual items you may see for sale are moccasin rubbers and a camp chef stove. You’ll also find moccasins made by people living in Teslin village.
The Nisutlin Trading Post is open 6 a.m. to 11p.m. daily in the summer.