Learning about Yukon First Nations

Posted by the Field School course leader, Suzanne de la Barre.

As the course instructor for the 2018 Yukon Winter Tourism Field School, I would like to acknowledge that our field school takes place on the traditional lands of the Kwanlin Dün and the Ta’an Kwäch’än First Nations.

On behalf of myself and my students, we deeply appreciate the opportunity to learn on these First Nation traditional territories. Over the course of our week-long field school, we will learn about circumpolar winter environments, the people who live and play there, and the activities and economies that can bring prosperity to the Yukon and its people. Gunalchish, Masi Cho, Thank you.

As part of reconciliation, the need for settler populations, past and present, to educate ourselves about Indigenous people, is significant. It is important to learn about Indigenous people so that we increase our understanding of their past and present relationships to the lands they have long called home, their histories, the on-going challenges they face with racism and the legacies of colonization, as well as its present-day manifestations. It is important also to learn so that we can meaningfully respect First Nations resilience, their accomplishments and achievements, and the hopes and dreams they have for the future. It is also important to create constructive and safe spaces to understand settler privilege, and discuss how we can actively support and participate in positive and mutually beneficial change going forward. Our shared future depends on our being able to educate ourselves, and to take actions that support our common well-being and shared prosperity.

To that end, Yukon Winter Tourism Field School students from Vancouver Island University (VIU) and the University of Norway (UiT) were required to complete the Yukon First Nations 101 online course developed by the Council for Yukon First Nation (CYFN) and Yukon College, and offered through the Northern Institute for Social Justice (NISJ) at Yukon College. The following are a few student excerpts from our Facebook course discussion page which was active during the weeks leading up to the students arriving on site on February 25, 2018:

“The most interesting thing I took away from the course was that 11 of the 14 Yukon First Nations are self-governing!”

“I love the tradition of a collective society and the extended family. This connection is so important for First Nations’ ability to survive and be resilient after the entire history of the Residential Schools, and it’s such a fascinating and admirable concept that you can’t find just anywhere in the world.”

“The Yukon First Nations value humility. They remain humble not only to other people but also to Mother Nature, which is in contrast to today’s mainstream materialistic culture. Their relationship and attachment to the land is very touching. And, it is also very interesting to learn that they have an oral tradition. They used oral and visual forms of communication like dancing, storytelling to pass their culture and history from one generation to another.”

“I loved learning about the traditions of respecting elders, and the traditional ways of dealing with things like conflict.”

It is hoped that strategies like taking FN 101 can contribute to Reconciliation through learning about First Nations, and engaging with them from informed and open-to-learning-more perspectives and standpoints.

For more information:

Yukon College course information – Yukon First Nations 101


CBC news post: Yukon College, First Nations develop online course, First Nations 101