First Nations People: A Lesson

We spent the night in the Village of Teslin, in the Yukon Territory, a community of the Tlingit people. Today's agenda was to begin our day in their Heritage Center, learning more. Teslin has one of the largest Native populations in the Yukon. Much of the community's livelihood revolves around traditional hunting, trapping and fishing.

Oh man, our day started early. This was the first morning we were positioned in such a way for the sunrise to penetrate our camper and blast us awake. REALLY. This photo was taken at 5 AM.

And this image was captured about 15 minutes later. What a way to start one's day- spectacular.
Throughout the Village, there are wonderful displays sharing the history of this beautiful place. We learned that early trade was started by Taylor & Drury, at the turn of the century. The T & D Store dominated the Yukon retail and automotive business for over half a century. In addition to the Teslin store, they had shops throughout the Yukon. And until the Alaska Highway, their branch stores were served by a river boat.
And when the rivers and lakes froze over, the boats were pulled by dog teams.


We came to the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre to learn about these people, their past as well as their now.
Upon arriving, we were greeted by five traditional Clan poles. They represent the five Clans in which Teslin Tlingit Council society remains firmly rooted: Kùkhhittàn (Raven Children), Ishkìtàn (Frog), Yanyèdi (Wolf), Dèshitàn (Beaver), and Dakhł΄awèdi (Eagle).
"The masks are powerful objects that assist us in defining our place in the cosmos. In a world of endless change and complexity, masks offer a continuum for Native people to acknowledge our connection to the universe." -Chief Robert Joseph (Down from the Shimmering Sky, 1998).
I found this history lesson rather interesting. Through the fur trade, glass beads had a significant effect on First Nation life. The availability of these small beads, along with the introduction of trade cloth and steel needles led to the decline of age-old decorative techniques. Beadwork rose to become the predominant craft. The designs created by First Nation's people throughout North America are as varied as their geographical locations.

And we learned about the now. In 1995, the Tlingit negotiated and signed a land claims agreement with the federal government under which they re-established their own government and became self-sustaining. They are currently attempting to build new ways of becoming self-sufficient in a contemporary world and continuing to prosper in the old traditional ways, retaining the language, culture and laws for future generations.
"Eagle teaches us that it is okay to combine wisdom and courage —
it is okay to be wise enough to know that a change needs to be made in one’s life
and then finding the courage to execute the change."

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2 comments:

Karen Booth said...

Your nocturnal friend says "My sleep mask protects me from those "annoying" sunrises". Looks like you've finally seen some rain. Thumbs up on the Eagle totem close-up.

Aquí Ahí Allá said...

The beaded whale is absolutely beautiful.
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