Diniizhoo Diniizhoo, a Gwich’in gathering place

Clara Tizya

As a child, Clara Tizya and the other children danced, played ball and hide-and-go-seek, and threw a ball over the church. They also learned to hunt and live on the land.

Clara Tizya remembered playing as a child and people immigrating to live with Van Tat Gwich’in

“.. They immigrated from Chandalar, which also is called Arctic Village. We had a lot of people from that part of the area that came to live with our people, and they intermarried and they never left. Like my grandmother is from there and my great grandmother and grandfather was from there. But my grandfather Nehtruh [wolverine, Gwich’in name] was a real pure Van Tat Gwich’in. He married my little grandmother from that part of the country. So people are all mixed because there was very few Van Tat Gwich’in then. We nearly got wiped out with the two epidemics and there was just about a handful left. But they repopulated by intermarrying girls from other parts of the country and eventually our population went up a little bit but not that much. We were just always a small group, living on the land and we are famous for muskrat hunting because we are named after the lakes. And it was a beautiful life when I look back, compared to now.

[For recreation, my sister Elizabeth and I], we play. All the children of the village were all different ages but there was so few of us that we did everything together. We were great for dancing one year and we all would take partners in the winter. We just dance out on the road, Brandy and Jigs and we all gave each other names after older couples and we used to cheer and clap when that couple dance. We just do music with somebody singing by mouth. We had no music [laughs]. And we play ball and we play hideand-go-seek.

We used to throw the ball over the church and see who wins. The less you get the faster that one loses. So we were doing that one day and we were doing that over the old schoolhouse and I hit the window and broke it. And I was so scared. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell anybody. Mr. Moody arrived and I was waiting for the bomb to drop but never ever said a word about it to this day. I was just frightened for nothing [laughing]. So that’s the way we lived here.

... We play all day. We did useful things too, we go and hunt porcupine and easy things you know, and we learn to survive. Our parents teach us how to fix them and how to live on them. And we just carry on from there. But it is not like that today. When you send children away from home they forget their culture and it is really sad. But we have to live with changes and sometimes it is not so good.”

(Clara Tizya, VG1997-9-1:037-067 July 3, 1997 Rampart House, Yukon, English)