Yukon River: Heal and Purify
A First Nation recovers from cultural suppression
Cradled by stunningly-beautiful lakes and mountains, Carcross is inhabited by
the Carcross-Tagish First Nation.
The original Tagish residents were directly on the trade route of the coastal Tlingit
and adopted many of the Tlingit social customs.
Formerly called Caribou Crossing, Carcross was a stopover for Gold Rush Stampeders at
the turn of the century. Three of the Klondike gold discoverers were members of the Carcross-Tagish
First Nation and are buried there.
First Nation residents in Carcross have unbreakable ties to the land and their own traditions.
Sweat lodge ceremonies to heal and purify the spirit are held in Carcross. There is a summer
camp for young people as well where they learn the skills of survival and communal living.
Carcross is on its way to becoming a healthy community, but some residents still battle
social problems. The reasons are complex. Some adults in Carcross trace their difficulties
to their childhood when they were taken from their homes and placed in church-run schools.
Church-run schools suppressed established, aboriginal cultures and languages. Traditional
religious beliefs were replaced by European concepts that had nothing to do with aboriginal
experience or spirituality. As a result, today, many in the Native population are struggling
to retain their cultural integrity and pride.
Recently, the Carcross-Tagish First Nation demolished the local boarding school founded
by the Anglican Church in 1901 and restored the land to its natural state.
The First Nations peoples anticipate with hope the negotiation of self-government agreements
which would give them limited law-making powers over land use, hunting, trapping, fishing,
business, culture, health care, education, and conflict resolution.
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