The smell of percolating coffee wafted through the air as Angie Joseph-Rear pushed open the doors to the old dance hall in Moosehide.
Inside, people danced and jigged late into the night, snacking on homemade sandwiches and cake.
Joseph-Rear’s father played the fiddle alongside other musicians while a square-dance caller gave instructions to the partygoers.
Children danced along the edges of the hall, emulating their parents who had taken up the middle of the room.
It was the late 1950s and the Christmas holidays at Moosehide village, about five kilometres away from Dawson City, were filled with nightly dances.
“I have no idea how they managed to have a dance every night between Christmas and New Year,” Joseph-Rear said.
“They would dance all night, get up the next morning to go to work and do it all over again the next night. But we never knew what time the dances ended because my father would send us home around 9 o’clock.”
Joseph-Rear remembers peeking out of her home with her siblings on those nights, trying to spot the first vehicles to show up from town.
The holidays were also a time when the children would cram into a toboggan, hitch up their dogs and visit their relatives in Dawson City.
They would spend the entire day playing, Joseph-Rear recalls, and ride back to Moosehide late at night.
“It was so nice to be riding when the moonlight was out,” she said.
Every kid in Moosehide had a homemade sled. On weekends they were allowed to hitch one dog to it, Joseph-Rear remembers.
They would carry out chores for elders in the village without even being asked, like fill up their barrels of water or chop wood for them.
“We used to go to a nearby island where there was a hillside filled with dead wood,” she said.
“We’d pile as much as we could onto our sleds and we’d haul it back to the village. It was all about playing for us, we didn’t see it as work.
“We’d see our father do it so we wanted to do it too.”
Born in 1946, Joseph-Rear is a former Han language programmer for the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation.
She spent her childhood in Moosehide until 1957, when she and others from the village were sent away to residential school in Carcross.
It coincided with many others moving away to nearby Dawson City.
Joseph-Rear said she’s happy to be able to remember the holidays in Moosehide.
About 25 years ago one of her sisters, who lived near the village, came to visit on Christmas Day by dog sled.
That brought back some special memories, Joseph-Rear said.
“It was a simple, nice, meaningful time,” she said of her childhood.
“I wish we could go back to that again.”
Contact Myles Dolphin at