Tr’ondek Hwich’in Celebrate at Moosehide

The 10th Moosehide Gathering will take place at Moosehide (where else?) from July 29 to Aug. 1.

Moosehide is located five kilometres downstream from Dawson City, and was the home of the Hän people for some 50 years.

The village was established at the beginning of the 20th century when the Hän people were displaced from their traditional campsites at Tr’ochëk (also known as Klondike City and Lousetown).

The move is variously claimed as the inspiration of the legendary Chief Isaac and the Reverend Flewelling of the Anglican Church, but it resulted in Moosehide becoming the primary home of the mixture of Hän and Gwech’in people known today as the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.

The village remained that way until 1957, when the the local school was closed. After that, most of the people relocated to Dawson.

The revival of Moosehide as a place of celebration and gathering has gone hand in hand with the revival of other cultural traditions among the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, a process energized by the negotiations and final settlement of their Land Claim in the summer of 1997.

Even before that, in 1993, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in had begun to revive the practice of gatherings, using them to replace the storied potlatches of old, events which were the inspiration for many of the songs which the First Nation has been relearning over the last decade.

After having two gatherings in a row, the second being in 1994, it was decided to have them bi-annually.

As the advertising for the event indicates, it is “a sharing celebration of culture – to honour our heritage, our ancestors and our future.”

Past events have been described as “a homecoming to many. It is a journey, not only in a physical sense, but an emotional and spiritual one as we reconnect with our past and future.”

As such, the Gathering is a mixture of many things.

For many people, it is a rediscovery of the Yukon River, much ignored by the average traveller and even by many long-time Dawsonites. If you do not fish, own your own boat, or have a reason to cross regularly on the ferry, it is easy to see the river as nothing more than nice scenery from the top of the dike walkway.

Waiting in line to get a seat on the seemingly endless flotilla of boats making the 10- or 15-minute trip back and forth over the four-day event makes the river and the lives connected to it a very palpable thing.

The Gathering is open to First Nations people from all over the Yukon and Alaska, and even further afield. It is also open to any visitors in the area; tourists from all over Canada, the USA and Europe swelled the numbers at the site in 2008, when it was estimated that some 2,000 people spent at least part of the weekend at Moosehide.

This year, the gathering will be celebrating the lives of the late Laura Sanford of Eagle and Archie Roberts, two elders who have contributed greatly to the revival of the local culture.

Entertainment will be provided by hip-hop artist Eekwol, from the Muskoday First Nation; Métis fiddler Sierra Noble; Cree musician Chester Knight; and the local Hän Singers and Drummers.

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