A photo from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation book, <em>Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur Our Stories in Our Words</em>. Hootalinqua Johnny, grandfather of Hoodlua (Kitty Smith), with his wives Alice Cody, left, and Nelly Johnny in the late 1920s.

A photo from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation book, Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur Our Stories in Our Words. Hootalinqua Johnny, grandfather of Hoodlua (Kitty Smith), with his wives Alice Cody, left, and Nelly Johnny in the late 1920s.

A history of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation detailed in new book

Publication has been a 10-year effort

After a decade spent gathering the stories, history and language of its people, the Kwanlin Dün First Nation has released its written history, Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur Our Stories in Our Words.

The hard-cover book was officially launched Dec. 7 via a virtual press conference. It comes as the First Nation also celebrates the 15th anniversary of its land claims and self-government agreements coming into effect.

KDFN Chief Doris Bill said she believes the publication will become a “definitive history” of the First Nation. It documents the “knowledge, wisdom, courage, strength and resiliency of our ancestors,” she said.

“They ensured that our languages and culture would survive to provide guidance for us now and for all future generations. Knowing our history is an essential foundation for building up our government and fulfilling the needs of our people. We tell these stories so KDFN citizens and all people know how we came to be the vibrant nation we are today.”

The creation of the book was outlined as part of the First Nation’s final agreement with work on it beginning 10 years ago. Calls were put out to the First Nation’s citizens, workshops were held and documents and recordings of oral narratives reviewed to capture the history. Several KDFN writers were contracted to work on the project with others from the First Nation’s staff producing the maps featured from the stories elders’ shared of the history.

“It was a real community effort,” Bill said, noting the work that went into capturing every story that was shared.

A photo from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation book, Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur Our Stories in Our Words. Hootalinqua Johnny, grandfather of Hoodlua (Kitty Smith), with his wives Alice Cody, left, and Nelly Johnny in the late 1920s.

Following the research of the stories and history, work got underway to create the book with First Nation elders deciding to present it as a seasonal round beginning with a long-ago springtime when the world began. Photos and stories of KDFN families and individuals along with important landmarks and places are featured throughout the book.

The book follows a full-year cycle through the history, ending in the late-summer of today where the First Nation “continues to realize the vision of its final and self-government agreements”, as described in a statement by the KDFN.

Bill Webber, who sat on the book’s technical review team, highlighted the extensive changes Whitehorse went through as it grew from a small settlement to becoming the territory’s capital city, pointing to the destruction of hunting and fishing areas among many challenges faced by First Nations.

“In our lifetime we saw the blueberry patches around Whitehorse swept away forever, along with our rich salmon fishery at Marsh Lake after the building of the power dam,” he said, adding he wants others to understand the impact changes have had on the First Nation.

He described the book as part of the effort to bring back culture that had been taken away.

“We believe it will set a new course for teaching,” Webber said.

All KDFN citizens aged 16 and over will be provided with a copy of Kwanlin Dün D kwndur ghày ghakwadîndur Our Stories in Our Words.

Bill said it is disappointing that a community gathering can’t be held for the launch due to COVID-19, but an event to celebrate the publication will happen when it is safe to do so.

In the meantime, First Nation members are invited to a drive-by pickup at the Nàkwät’à Kù Potlatch House on Dec. 17 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to get their copies.

“These are their stories, these are their pictures,” Bill said in explaining the decision to provide copies to each member of the First Nation.

The publication is also available to purchase at Mac’s Fireweed Books and the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre during the Yúk’e Arts Market from Dec. 9 to 20.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Kwanlin Dun First Nation

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