Before I was brought in to Whitehorse to attend public school I spend my formative years in and around the Tàän Män (Lake LeBerge), Kwátän Æyá(Fox Lake) and Tàûllä (Little Fox Lake) areas living, hunting and trapping, listening to the stories of how my ancestors travelled the land observing the changes as they came.
That’s how it was. Puttering about along side my grandfather Frankie Jim, while I watched him cutting moose meat he told me this story.
“You know” he said “I was hunting by myself when I came to this big animal with big horns…I never saw that kind of animal before but I needed to get food.”
…but that was the first time I see that; before I only hunted caribou, there was no moose around then.
“I killed it, opened it up and cleaned the insides…” he said “…then I went back to where the people were to let them know so they could come to help me pack the meat out”.
“I told the old men about the animal I killed” he said “when they saw what I got, they told me it was a moose, they knew about it, but that was the first time I see that; before I only hunted caribou, there was no moose around then” he told me. “I was just a young man, “ he said “maybe twelve or thirteen years old”.
My grandfather was from Hutchi, born probably in the second to last, or, the last decade of the 1800’s and he’s passed away some time ago now. I think of him and Gramma Celia often and I share their teachings with my children and my grandchildren.
I tell the stories I heard as a child to underpin the southern tutchone language and history that I pass along within my family hoping they appreciate, as I do, the incredible wealth of knowledge left by our ancestors.
I teach them the names of the moose that now outnumber caribou on the lands where I grew up;
- Hkànáy – moose
- Dänjii – bull moose
- Dàghür – cow moose
- Chi’urà – yearling moose
- Dèsia – calf moose
as well as a couple of words for caribou;
- Mezi – caribou
- Mezi dèsia – calf caribou.
The moose and the caribou are used almost in its entirety for food, shelter, clothing, footwear, utensils, tools and toys.
There are three moose resident at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve; using the southern tutchone words for moose, see if you are able to identify each when you next visit their pasture.
Shirley Adamson is an Elder of the Tagish Nation. She is a member of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society Board of Directors and chairs its Animal Care and Use Committee.