Formerly Tools, Now Artifacts on Display

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation recorded elders’ stories in 1993. This turned into about seven boxes of transcripts, which sat in an office.

Elders gathered several more times, and their stories of camp locations and trail locations were again recorded, transcribed, and combed. Archaeologists compiled and compressed the information-as-stories, and honed in on one geographic area: M’Clintock Lakes and Michie Creeks.

This is in the vicinity of Marsh Lake, and it’s where the archaeologists went to dig. They found scrapers, Chinese coins, swan bone tools, and old drying structures to hang fish on. They found human-used things preserved below the ash line. Krista Reid says if anything is below the ash line it means it’s older than 1200 years, because that’s when a volcano erupted.

There were relics above the ash line; some relics are only a few years old. Reid said the First Nation wanted to see if elders’ stories of land use were corroborated with physical debris.

They were. Reid said evidence of thousands of years of existence verified the stories recorded. Elders who told the stories were presented with the tangible findings. They dug up old photographs and moccasins and memories stimulated by the archeological finds.

Krista Reid isn’t an archaeologist. She’s the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre’s cultural programs coordinator, who apparently develops exhibits, as she says. She got the job in the summer of 2014, and was handed over two decades worth of recordings and collected artifacts to turn into what she calls a visual story. “It’s like putting together a display for the science fair.”

Reid says the physically-found evidence identifies the Tagish Khwáan people, who inhabited the M’Clintock Lake and Michie Creek area, as original people of this territory. She says the recovered scrapers, chert — chips from when stones were used to turn other stones into tools, and blades of obsidian that were traded from Alaska, verify that oral storytelling is scientific evidence of a way of life that, she says, is ongoing. “People still go there to fish.”

Reid says the Tagish Khwáan are part of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, and part of the Carcross Tagish First Nation. She says the area was seasonally used; different harvests happened at different times of the year. It is the place the fish come.

To show this, fish nets and traps and pictures will be on display, like the picture of Tammy Joe, someone who Krista Reid knows, in a boat with her grandma. There will be maps and photographs, of trails and old sites families would use. There will be quotes.

Elders advised which photos to use with which displays, and which quotes would best bolster the visuals. The display will be in the cultural centre’s sparse, cool nook, the temporary collections display.

Replicas will be made of tools and other human-modified things, and these will be on display. There will also be bones and rocks found, neatly tagged with: “Ochre”, “Scraper” (found) “below White River”.

There will be a slide show of aerial shots of the land in question, and of photos of culturally modified trees, of which there are plenty documented. “It’s like they took a picture of every culturally modified tree,” says Reid.

The bark of such trees has used to make tools and baskets, and also medicine. She’s loved learning little tidbits, like that, and that gull eggs can be found there.  She loves gull eggs, and wonders where exactly they’re harvested, and what time of year. She loves learning the connections between elders, and learning things through them.

The exhibit opens on April 1 and runs until the end of September. The opening reception is on April 1, at 5:00 p.m. at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. 

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