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©Linda Dawn Hammond 1981

After Gold was discovered in the Klondike area in the 1890s, the native tribes living at the mouth of the Klondike river (now Dawson City) were forced to relocate to the area now known as Moosehide Village. The Han people are one of the tribes which make up the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nations.

While visiting Moosehide, I spoke with a young native man who had gathered friends to clear the long grasses at Moosehide as he explained that if they were left, fires could start and the houses would be lost. His eyes blazed as he expressed a desire to convince his people to return to this isolated community and a more traditional way of life. He wanted to settle eventually himself on one of the Islands in the river...

He told me that the Moosehide village had been abandoned in the 1950s after the schoolteacher left the village and funding was discontinued. Instead of finding a replacement, the government closed down the school and sent all the children to Dawson to continue their education. Their families were naturally obliged to follow them to town, and the Moosehide community rapidly disintegrated. The children were no longer taught in their native language and the self-sufficiency of the people eroded over time.

He took me on a tour of the interiors. I photographed the schoolroom, which could have been abandoned yesterday, were it not for the dilapidated state of its walls. Children's notes and drawings lay scattered on their desks, a last lesson, written in their native language, still in chalk upon the board. It was eerie- especially after the tragic story he had just told me. The child's lesson I documented (see LINK below!) was chosen as it represented his dream- of a Native family and community living in harmony with each other and their environment.

According to a spokesperson, the community is presently undergoing the process of spiritually healing through "support groups and participating in cultural pursuits". She added, "Moosehide has changed since you were last there, some new buildings have been added, some old buildings have been renovated, and Tr'ondek Hwech'in is trying to restore life to the village once again. Starting in 1993, Tr'ondek Hwech'in hosted its first Moosehide Gathering for northern people to celebrate their heritage. This special event takes place every two years, the next gathering is in July 2004. Some people stay there, mostly during the summers, but nobody stays there year round".

The official version of the history of Moosehide is written upon a plaque near the church. I read another one, lying on abandoned schooldesks, now lost and forgotten.

Abandoned lesson
(click to enlarge)



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