Lhù’ààna: Kluane Lake Region
Welcome to Lhù’ààna. Lhù’ààna is home to Kluane National Park and Reserve with the tallest mountains in Canada, the Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary, stunning glacier-fed lakes, expansive boreal forests and some of the most breathtaking views in the world. Wildlife vastly outnumber the human population. Our small and vibrant communities have colourful histories and enduring traditions.
Lhù’ààn Mân: Kluane Lake
Lhù’ààn Mân is an essential part of life to those who live in the area. The Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań (Kluane Lake people) use the lake for food, water and transportation. The connection is deep and goes back countless generations.
Lhù’ààn Mân is the largest lake entirely in Yukon, stretching 81 kilometres (50 miles) in length and reaching depths of 91 metres (298 feet). It is bordered by mountain ranges—the Kluane Range on the southwestern shores and the Ruby and Nisling ranges on the northeastern shores.
A Shifting Landscape
The waters from the icefields and glaciers that flow into Lhù’ààn Mân (Kluane Lake) have shaped and changed the lake for hundreds of years.
Between 300 and 400 years ago, the Kaskawulsh Glacier advanced across Ä’äy Chù (Slim’s River) closing Lhù’ààn Mân’s drainage outlet. Water levels rose more than 10 metres (30 feet) causing the lake’s drainage to reverse. Instead of flowing south to the Gulf of Alaska, it flowed northwest into the Lhù’ààn Tagà (Kluane River) and onwards to the Bering Sea.
In the spring of 2016, the retreating Kaskawulsh Glacier caused further changes, and the water that once flowed down Ä’äy Chù into Lhù’ààn Mân now trickles towards the Pacific Ocean. The floodplain has become dry and dusty, and persistent winds from the valley blow silt towards the lake. As the silt advances and the vegetation grows, the landscape of Lhù’ààn Mân continues to change.
Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań: Kluane Lake People
For us, the Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań, this region is our ancestral homeland and our Traditional Territory, encompassing vast boreal forest and mountainous terrain.
We have inhabited Lhù’ààna (the Kluane Lake region) for countless generations. Our ancestors are Southern Tutchone, Northern Tutchone, Tlingit, Upper Tanana and, more recently, European. Today, most of us identify as Southern Tutchone and Tlingit, however, we acknowledge our ancestral ties to First Nations across Yukon and Alaska.
Traditionally, the Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań were seasonal travelers, and today we are renowned big game hunters, trappers, gatherers and guides. Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań maintain an extensive network of trails, hunting grounds, fish camps, seasonal camps, trade routes and trapping cabins. Families continue to travel and camp along our trails.
At the turn of the 20th century, Yukon First Nations lifestyles changed as Canadians, Europeans and Americans arrived in the region. Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań family groups began to settle around Jacquot Trading Post, in present-day Burwash Landing. With the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942, all nearby communities permanently altered the way of life for the Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań. Our connection to Lhù’ààna remains a pivotal value. Learning and passing along the Southern Tutchone culture and language will ensure future generations continue to care for the land, animals and people.
Kluane First Nation is a self-governing First Nation with a Traditional Territory that extends over 900 square kilometres. With the settlement of the Kluane First Nation Final agreement in 20114, we resumed responsibility for the management of our Settlement Lands and governance of our people. Kluane First Nation cooperatively manage Kluane National Park and Reserve, in partnership with Parks Canada and Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. The seat of Kluane First Nation government is in Burwash Landing.
“Dad and Jimmy Johnson had such big families that they’d have to keep hunting all the time. And gardens and what have you. Fishing of course, we had lots of fish. We fished all year round practically.”Grace Chambers
Everything Used, Nothing Wasted
The natural environment provided our Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań ancestor with everything they needed to survive in a harsh climate. Today, with the accessibility of food and technology, Lhù’ààn Mân Ku Dań live modern lives, while continuing to practice our traditions, and learn and live off the land.
Spring, summer and fall are busy times for gathering plants, medicines and berries in preparation for the colder months of the year. Even though we have access to modern medicines, our community also relies on traditional foods and medicines to maintain our health. The fall harvest season begins when the leaves begin to turn and the first frost covers the ground. Large game, like moose, are on the move, and families head out to hunting camps to hunt, fish and gather food for the winter. It is the time to prepare and preserve all that was collected in readiness for the colder months. Winter is a time to reconnect with family and friends, head out to the trapline, ice-fish and stay closer to home.
“Fable says that [ńtl’àt] cranberry is a cure for heartache but far more prosaically the sauce wards off scurvy.”Martha Louise Black, Yukon Wild Flowers, 1940
“As she, [Mary Jacquot] talked to us, she was chewing on a bit of [tansan] sage (Artemsia borealis) & she said that this was to prevent her from getting a cold. Artemsia is also boiled into tea & also spruce cones, for a cold curative and preventative.”Elmer Harp Jr., Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition, 1948
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