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

Lydia Thomas’ story of people coming from far away to Van Tat

When I was a child, there was a lot of fish in Fort McPherson. I was born over there, when they went over. … They brought me here [Troochòonjik]. I’m Tetlit Gwich’in; but I was raised here. I call this my home. When I was growing up … they went to Thanatha’aii after New Years for meat. Ah, they dried lots of meat. In those days there were no freezers; whatever meat they got, it was all dried.

After that, the people would go to Van Tat . It was really nice around my father’s country. People also stayed around Schaeffer Creek, K’ii Zhit and upstream. Dogs were always barking and we heard gun shots. When there was a crust [on the snow], dog teams were always coming to camps. They had feasts together; I remember that. …

As children, we played outside, a game called “yuu, yuu”. That’s the only game we knew. We really liked playing outdoors. Meanwhile, inside the tents they would eat good. I guess we were happy outside playing “yuu, yuu”.

In Daii [spring time] they made canvas boats. Before those canvas boats, they used to come down with rafts. I never saw that. After the canvas boats were made … everyone would gather on the river banks by their camps, waiting for each other. Together they all came down ... Chyahnjik . When they came to the canyon, they got out of the boats and made a big [church] service. Then they continued on down. In those days the canyon was very dangerous, swift water. From there on, it was good, there were no big waves. I remember that. Now I am older, [this is] what I remember.