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Colonial Space, Indigenous land use, and resource extraction in the Yukon, 1900-1940

Thu, March 30, 1:30 to 3:00pm, The Drake Hotel, Venetian


At the turn of the 20th century, the Yukon was considered a hinterland for the extraction of natural resources, specifically gold, for the benefit of individual gold seekers and for the federal Canadian government in Ottawa. Beginning with the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896 into the mid-20th century capitalist land use and the creation of colonial space heavily impacted the subsistence lifestyle of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation in the Klondike region. Differences in Euro-Canadian and Indigenous ideologies about land, “wilderness” and private property led to conflict and the deterioration of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in fish and game harvesting activities. Furthermore, in developing the Moosehide Reserve, government officials in the Yukon intended this segregated space to act as a barrier to keep indigenous peoples out of Dawson City (often cited to be in the best interests of the Hwëch’in), while simultaneously acting as a space in which Church and government could monitor and manage the proposed assimilation of the Klondike’s indigenous population. However, archival files and interviews with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elders in Dawson suggest that the Hwëch’in community subverted the colonial authorities’ intentions for Moosehide by persisting with cultural activities, particularly the continuation of hunting, fishing, and gathering on and around the reserve. The Moosehide reserve acted as a cultural and community space for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, which allowed them to continue subsistence activities and to pass on these skills to youth during a tumultuous period in their history.