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

Myra Moses describes the importance of Van Tat:

That’s why they are protective of Van Tat. It’s easy to kill meat there. Grandchild, I saw all around, you know: Fort Yukon, I was all over this land. All around Black River, I saw there too. I saw all around Fort McPherson, too. Even so, only in Van Tat is it easy to kill small animals to eat. On account of that, they don’t like anyone to bother Van Tat.

Sarah Abel’s story of Van Tat in hard times

Grandchild, in those days there were hard times. Even so, all the people on earth were friends towards each other. That’s how people survived sometimes. But when there was no meat, when it was hard for them to kill meat, about a hundred people froze to death up there on that mountain called Chyah Ddhaa. Lots of people froze to death on it. That’s why it’s called Chyah Ddhaa.

So, Grandchild, at Van Tat and Crow Point, those two [places], a long time ago when there was no food, people depended on those places, they said. … When people had no food, they moved to Van Tat [for fish], where there’s creeks by the lakes. In those days there were no fishnets. They tore off the willow bark and knitted it as big fishnets. They set these in the creeks. They got lots of fish and ate really good, they said. With its broth, they used every bit of it.

Many years ago, maybe a thousand years ago, they did that. Still today, the people continue to live off Van Tat . The people raised now, those being raised, they still use it. They still depend on Van Tat .

So, Grandchild, Chyahnjik , that is what they call Crow River, flows through the middle of Van Tat . The fish went through there to the lakes and the people used them.