Van Tat Vuntut Gwich’in, ‘People of the Lakes,’ derive their name from Van Tat

Charlie ThomasCharlie Thomas’ story of travel to Van Tat

This creek is called King Edward Creek; in Gwich’in it’s called Tsii’ideh Njik. Way up there, that mountain is called King Edward Ridge in English. In the Gwich’in language, it’s called Tsii’ideh. The mountain down below there, it’s a high mountain, in Gwich’in it’s called Ch’anchał. In English it’s called King Edward Mountain. There, my grandfather Deetru’, it was his country. At Ch’anchał, he trapped dzan . Then he would go down to Rampart House with dog packs. Old Donald [Fredson] used to do that too. He stayed below Ch’anchał with Annie [Fredson] for dzan hunting. She had a young girl and all of them went down the mountains with dog packs. They came into [ Chyahnjik ] river [here].

I stayed with grandfather Elias [Kwatlatii] one time on the other side of Tsii’ideh. It’s a long way to here overland from the top of Tsii’ideh. When dogs were good, we hauled our stuff to the river with dogs; dogs were strong then. It was nothing for them on bare ground. I took loads ahead half way. At that time my wife was living with me. We had not adopted Willie and Florence yet. We got to the river then the next night, I went back for more stuff with the dogs. It’s a long way overland. At that time, the people living around K’ii Zhit landed here when they were coming down river. I still had to make a boat. Grandfather Elias made a boat and then I did, too. Then we pushed out and it was really good.

That Ch’icheechih, it’s called, from here going down, it teased us. … It’s on the way, it’s in front, next thing it’s behind you. Then way down by Crow Mountain, beside it’s called Gwak’an Choo. Below that is Chyaa Ddhàa. Long ago, there’s stories about the people grieving …. When some of the people died, their hair was long.… They burnt up on Chyaa Ddhàa. That’s why its called Chyaa Ddhàa. Their hair is long; it’s called chyah in the Gwich’in language.