Diniizhoo Diniizhoo, a Gwich’in gathering place

Hannah NetroHannah Netro shared what her father told her about Diniizhoo

“In all my life this the first time I see what they call Diniizhòo, Game Mountain. Ah, there’s lots of berries around here. I’m happy to come here. My father told me stories, but I was small so I forgot lots of them. I don’t know the land. Diniizhòo, they always said it’s special.

They hunted around here for caribou, all over this big country. In the summer there were lots of caribou, lots of small animals around here. Down there is a big lake; there’s a lot of whitefish in it. At the same time, the berries grew and so they were not hungry. They walked all over to places they knew. From there, in fall time, they all went down to Tl’oo K’at, when the caribou were crossing [the Porcupine River]. In the summer months, they dried meat. …

I’ll talk about that time. They dried meat at Tl’oo K’at and then went to Rampart House for the summer months. At that time Dan Cadzow had a store there, they said. That’s not long ago.

This is really a big country. … They say [the Diniizhòo area is] close to the ocean. They used to go to Herschel Island with dog packs. They took dried meat and bone grease to sell to the Eskimos. With the money they bought a little groceries. [North of Diniizhòo] is Thomas Hill: that is Charlie Thomas’ grandfather’s [place]. You see how big the mountain is? He made a caribou fence there. When the caribou went in the caribou fence, all those people had meat. …

When it got warm, before they moved away from here, they had a feast. They got water from that lake down there. They said it’s good water. … They played different games, all the games they knew. Today, they don’t play them, I mean. …They taught their children about everything. They tanned hides, cut meat, made dry meat, all that. That is how they lived long ago. …

Around here they killed caribou. They made lots of meat: they didn’t leave behind even a small piece, they said. They cleaned everything. They took rocks and made big cellars, deep, way down. They kept meat in there, and they said it didn’t spoil. That’s really good.

How big this lake [below Diniizhoo ] is. They cleaned off the snow … and made … hockey sticks with birch trees, they said. The women and children shoveled the snow away and they made the ice really clean. Then the moose … arm, the … round part on it, they said they had that for [a ball]. They played with that too. …Wrestling too. … The women, this side, then the men, they played ball. … [They competed to see] who could tan skins the quickest. One woman always tanned skins fastest, they said. Then they [competed making] snowshoes, knitting [them and] everything. They raced each other. That one woman, she always won, they said. …”

(Hannah Netro at Diniizhòo, 1 August 2000 VG2000-4-13:017-048; 097-140 Gwich’in)

“I saw it from plane, that calving ground . It’s just wide and grassy, green grass. Around there is a small lake; that is where the caribou drink. This land, how big it is! It’s a beautiful land; it’s all good. Really, it’s such a beautiful land. Everything, what we live off, everything [animals], plants, water, everything, He put it [here] for us, grandchild. We live on that now.

But … other people bother us for our land. That’s why there has been lots of work about that. Down at the dance hall, you see the pictures up there on the walls [of elders]. All of them fixed everything for us long ago. Around 1940, they had meetings, Old Chief [Peter Moses], Joseph Kaye, Johnny Kaye from over Fort McPherson way; chiefs, all of them. They would come over for meetings. They were really smart people. All of them have passed away. “In the future, they will not bother you for the land.” That’s still to come, they said. “That’s why we fix it for you,” they told the people. We are in that [time] now. But I really thank the Lord. I [came] here for that. You all do lots of work for our land. By God, it’s going to be good, we hope. For that, I always worry.”

(Hannah Netro, Game Mountain 1 August 2000 VG2000-4-13:320-350 Gwich’in)