'A gift to our people': Kwanlin Dün First Nation's new history book told in their words

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation has published a new book documenting its history in Yukon, sharing the stories and language of generations of citizens.

New book will be 'definitive history' of the First Nation, says chief

The new book, 'Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur, Our Stories in Our Words' was a decade in the making. It will be available for free to all Kwanlin Dün citizens over age 16. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation has published a new book documenting its history in Yukon, sharing the stories and language of generations of citizens

"This beautiful book is a gift to our people, today and for all future generations," said Bill Webber, who was part of the book's technical review team.

"Together we have created a distinctive history of Kwanlin Dün, told in our own words."

The book, Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur: Our Stories in Our Words, was a community effort that started 10 years ago. 

Elders gave guidance, families shared stories and photos, and interviews were translated from First Nation languages, said Chief Doris Bill, who called it a "definitive history" of her nation.

The book is called, 'Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur Our Stories in Our Words.' (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The book is organized into four seasons, as suggested by elders. It begins in a "long-ago springtime when the world began," and moves into the "late summer of today," where the KDFN is a self-governing First Nation with a modern treaty.

Webber spoke of the rapid change his nation faced as Whitehorse grew, including the permanent destruction of hunting and fishing areas, and newcomers who challenged their rights and freedoms.

"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," said Webber. 

"We want people to understand the impacts these events had on us."

He said this book is part of bringing back the culture that was taken away.

This image from the book shows Mrs. Slim Jim with child Lily Kane near what is now called Lake Laberge. ( Yukon Archives / Margaret and Rolf Hougen Collection)

Chief Doris Bill said the book is a product of the First Nation's self determination. It was a key part of the KDFN Final Agreement, she said, and was published on the agreement's 15th anniversary. 

It documents the "knowledge, wisdom, courage, strength and resiliency of our ancestors," she said.

"We tell these stories so we know — and all people know — how we came to be where we are today."

Available free to all citizens over age 16

Judy Gingell, who was also part of the book's technical review committee, noted the book includes all its subjects' First Nation names, which can sometimes be forgotten.

The book is available for free to any Kwanlin Dün citizen over age 16. The First Nation is hosting a drive-by book pickup at  at the Nàkwät'à Kų̀ Potlatch House on December 17 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The book includes First Nation languages. (Kwanlin Dün First Nation)

The book is available through Mac's Fireweed Books and at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

"You'll have a hard time putting it down," said Gingell.

Written by Laura Howells, with files from Philippe Morin, Paul Tukker and Yukon Morning