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First Nation not dependent on trading post, says archeologist

A Whitehorse researcher's work is shedding new light on the relationship between Northern Tutchone people and early Hudson Bay Company traders.

Research says Northern Tutchone didn't trade that often at Fort Selkirk

A Whitehorse researcher's work is shedding new light on the relationship between Northern Tutchone people and early Hudson Bay Company traders.

Victoria Castillo, who works at Yukon College, spent two summers digging at the original Fort Selkirk site in central Yukon. It's across the Yukon River from the current site. Her archeological research was part of work towards earning a PhD from the University of Alberta.

Victoria Castillo, a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Alberta, says Northern Tutchone did not become dependent on the Fort Selkirk trading post for their basic needs. (CBC)

Castillo says her research has revealed the First Nation was in a relatively unique position of power when it came to its relationship with the traders.

"Fur trade posts have been written about as places where a post arrives and all of a sudden the indigenous population that lives nearby becomes completely dependent on the post — sometimes even before the post arrives — but often in a matter of 10 or 20 years people stopped doing their regular year-round cycles and are now living at the post, expecting the post to feed them, to house them, to clothe them, and in this instance that's absolutely not the case."

Castillo says the fort was small and very few aboriginal artifacts were found at the site. She says that shows the First Nation did not feel compelled to trade that often with the newcomers.

Castillo plans to share her findings with the Selkirk First Nation, which assisted her with much of her work.

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