The former Hän fish camp, known today as Tr’ochëk, was designated as a National Historic Site on July 19, 2002, joining the long list of such sites that are already located in Dawson City.
On July 23, 2011, just over nine years later, Tr’ochëk was awarded its own bronze plaque by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
Historically, the connection between the Hän people and Tr’ochëk goes back several millennia.
Located at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, Tr’ochëk was a natural place for the semi-nomadic Hän to establish a regular gathering spot from which to fish for salmon and hunt in the moose pasture that would eventually be transformed into Dawson City.
The Hän lost control of Tr’ochëk almost as soon as the gold discovery occurred on Rabbit Creek (Bonanza Creek) in 1896. By 1897, with the assistance of the Anglican Church and the Northwest Mounted Police, they had relocated to Moosehide, five kilometres downstream from their former village and the new town of Dawson City.
Tr’ochëk became known as Lousetown for a time and then was renamed Klondike City. Local business boosters had a mind to have it rival Dawson, in spite of the fact that it included the Klondike’s “red light” district, along with a brewery and other types of industry.
It lacked Dawson’s river port advantage, and all the bridges linking the two towns were damaged or destroyed in the annual spring breakups.
Klondike City declined faster than Dawson once the first phase of the Gold Rush had passed.
Its next prominent phase was as a home for some people from the Selkirk First Nation, displaced when the new roads after World War Two accelerated the decline in river traffic past Fort Selkirk.
By the 1970s there were mining claims staked all over the former townsite, and it appeared it would go the way of the Gold Rush era settlements in the gold fields on the creeks which had been dredged and sluiced into oblivion during the heyday of the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation.
It was the land claims negotiations of the 1990s that led the federal government to buy out the remaining claims and allow archaeological preservation of the remaining artifacts from Tr’ochëk and Klondike City history.
The site passed to the control of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, the new political designation for the people previously known as the Dawson Indian Band.
Initially it was known as the Tr’o-ju-wech’in Heritage Site, but eventually it became known as Tr’ochëk, which roughly translates as “the mouth of the river” or “the mouth of the Klondike,” according to elder Percy Henry.
The plaque ceremony was held before an audience of about 90 people on a fine Saturday afternoon at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre.
There were speeches from Deputy Chief Robert Joseph, Yukon’s Tourism Minister Elaine Taylor, Member of Parliament Ryan Leef and former Yukon Government manager of Historic Sites, Doug Olynyk.
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of the plaque by Ryan Leef and TH elder Percy Henry, with readings of the trilingual text by the Yukon’s Historic Sites and Monument Board representative, Loree Stewart (English), Yukon Superintendent for Parks Canada, Anne Morin (French), and Erika Scheffen, a Heritage interpreter at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre (Hän).
In English, the plaque reads as follows:
“Tr’ochëk, in the middle Ch kon’dëk (Yukon River) Valley, lies at the heart of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in territory. This gathering place is valued for its rich natural resources and its significance to the community is sustaining and transmitting its heritage. Tr’ochëk exemplifies the connection between the land at is people, and speaks to the land a source of traditional knowledge. The importance of the landscape is expressed in oral histories, language, place names, and in the continued use of the site. Tr’ochëk is a place where the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in community reflects upon and shares its culture with others.”
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.