Chapter 3 – Ethnography and Traditional Lifeways

Suggested Readings

This chapter has provided an introduction to a wide range of topics. More detailed ethnographic and historical accounts of Yukon’s First Peoples include The Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6, Subarctic, edited by June Helm (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 1981), particularly the chapters by John R. Crow and Philip R. Obley (Hän), Richard Slobodin (Kutchin), and John J. Honigmann (Kaska); Cornelius Osgood’s book The Han Indians: A Compilation of Ethnographic and Historical Data on the Alaska-Yukon Boundary Area (Yale University Publications in Anthropology, New Haven 1971); Richard Slobodin’s book chapter on Kaska warfare “Without Fire: A Kutchin Tale of Warfare, Survival, and Vengeance” (Proceedings: Northern Athapaskan Conference, National Museum of Man Mercury Series, 1971); Catharine McClellan’s academic works My Old People Say: An Ethnographic Survey of Southern Yukon Territory (National Museums of Canada, Ottawa 2001 [1975]), My Old People’s Stories: A Legacy for Yukon First Nations (Yukon Heritage Resources Unit, Government of Yukon, Whitehorse 2007), as well as her works for broader audiences, such as Part of the Land, Part of the Water: A History of Yukon Indians (Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver 1987); and more recent publications such as Han: People of the River by Craig Mishler and William E. Simeone (University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks 2004), Oral History as History: Tutchone Athapaskan in the Period 1840–1920 by Dominique Legros (Yukon Heritage Resources Unit, Government of Yukon, Whitehorse 2007), and People of the Lakes: Stories of our Van Tat Gwich’in Elders/Googwandak Nakhwach’ànjòo Van Tat Gwich’in by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and Shirleen Smith (University of Alberta Press, Edmonton 2009).

For more collections of stories about how people lived in Yukon as told by Yukon First Nation Elders Mrs. Angela Sidney, Mrs. Kitty Smith and Mrs. Annie Ned see Julie Cruikshank’s work Life Lived Like a Story: Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders (University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver 1990) and Kwädą̄ y Kwändǖr (Traditional Southern Tutchone Stories), compiled and translated by Margaret Workman (Yukon Native Language Centre, Whitehore 2000).

More information on the Indigenous languages of Yukon can be found in Sharing the Gift of Language: Profile of Yukon First Languages (Government of Yukon Executive Council Office: Aboriginal Language Services, Whitehorse 2004), Barbra Meek’s We Are Our Language: An Ethnography of Language Revitalization in a Northern Athabaskan Community (University of Arizona Press, Tucson 2010), and the numerous publications and books at the Yukon Native Language Centre[1] which were written with language experts, including: Jane Montgomery, Josephine Acklack, Doris Bob, Barbara Moss, Lizze Hall, Lorraine Allen, Martha Smith, Elizabeth Smith, Margaret Bob, Lucy Wren, Kathy Birckel, Hazel Bunbury, Lena Johnson, Bertha Moose, Bessie John, Edward Roberts, Ann Mercier, Dennis Porter, Catherine Germaine, Eva Billy, Martha Smith, Vivian Smith, and  Lorraine Allen.

For more information on the Kaska Dene, the effects of colonialism and forms of healing see Gillian Farnell’s The Kaska Dene: A Study of Colonialism, Trauma and Healing in Dene Kēyeh (MA thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver 2014).

Dr. Norma Shorty’s dissertation research on her clan origin stories and the process of gathering clan stories provides a Tlingit perspective on documenting one’s own culture, family history, and ways of knowing. Her thesis titled Inland Tlingit of Teslin, Yukon: G̲aanax̲.Ádi and Kook̲hittaan Clan Origin Stories for the Immediate and Clan Family of Emma Joanne Shorty (nee Sidney) is important and necessary work (2015).

For oral history accounts of the Inuvialuit living on Yukon’s North Slope see Murielle Ida Nagy’s Yukon North Slope Inuvialuit Oral History (1994).

For more contemporary ethnographies of Yukon and Northern British Columbia’s Indigenous Peoples see We Are Our Language: An Ethnography of Language Revitalization in a Northern Athabascan Community (Meek 2010) and ‘We Are Still Didene’: Stories of Hunting and History from Northern British Columbia (McIlwraith 2012).


  1. http://www.ynlc.ca

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ECHO: Ethnographic, Cultural and Historical Overview of Yukon's First Peoples by Victoria Elena Castillo, Christine Schreyer, and Tosh Southwick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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