Tr'ochëk - Dawson City - Canada
In April 2017 I completed a six-week Artist in Residency with the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture in Dawson City, Yukon. My proposal was based on an idea to volunteer with the local newspaper, the Klondike Sun. In the end I worked mostly on my own documenting people and places in Dawson. The following is the resulting photo essay.
The Town of the City of Dawson (official name), with a current population of 1300, became a base for the Klondike Gold Rush during the 19th century, with about 40,000 people coming to the area. By 1899, Dawson had become the largest city west of Winnipeg and north of San Francisco. The Hän-speaking Indigenous population, with its important settlement of Tr'ochëk, a fishing camp at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers where Dawson City lies today, was displaced by the sudden influx of thousands of outsiders. Under the leadership of Chief Isaac the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in moved five kilometers downriver to Moosehide Village, in many ways to protect its people and their way of life from the outsiders.
Thanks to a land claim agreement signed with the federal government in 1998, today the Dawson and the surrounding Klondike area, are partly administered by the self-governing Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. According to Dawson City’s UNESCO application for National Heritage Site status, nowhere in the so-called New World, do Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples cooperate as well as they do in Dawson City.
Gold mining and Tourism continue to be major contributors to the local economy. Both are active in the warmer months with 60,000 visitors coming to the area. Despite its long, cold and dark winters, Dawson City remains a vibrant community attracting artists and those with a sense of adventure who often come for a visit but end up staying permanently.
Remote and small, Dawson City is endlessly complex with a diverse community of transplants and those who were born in the Yukon. The town is proud of its rich culture, arts scene, and constant stream of community events. Without glazing over a darker colonial past, many in the community actively work with and within the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation to reconcile, educate, and support the Hän language, and the First Nation's culture, traditions, and way of living on the land.