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4 Northern Tutchone As one proceeds upstream on the Yukon River, the Gwich’in word for story, gwandak, becomes hodëk among the Han Athabaskans, who traditionally inhabited a large area bisected only for the past century by the international boundary. Farther upriver, the word is hunday for the Northern Tutchone Athabaskans, in the Yukon Territory of Canada (the name Tutchone has the meaning ‘‘woods’’ or ‘‘forest’’). The Northern Tutchone people apply the term hunday to their contemporary historical and biographical accounts and a modified term, hudē ˛ hundāy, to their traditional tales. Linguist John Ritter translates hunday as ‘‘story’’ or ‘‘narration’’ and hudē ˛ hundāy as ‘‘long ago story.’’ In her article ‘‘Tutchone,’’ the ethnologist Catharine McClellan discusses speakers of Northern Tutchone and speakers of Southern Tutchone together as one culture. Of their ‘‘long ago stories’’ she regards those about Beaver Man (or Beaver Doctor) as their ‘‘major myth cycle’’ explaining ‘‘the present nature of the human world.’’ She sees their cycle about Crow, or Raven, as important but less prominent. Tutchone narrators of these and other ancient tales demonstrate great skill, McClellan finds, in ‘‘developing the psychological possibilities of the plots.’’ In their historical accounts of their first contact with white men, she observes, they do not hesitate to make themselves the butt of humor (). Mrs. Gertie Tom has done extensive work in recording, transcribing, and translating hudē ˛ hundāy as told to her by several Northern Tutchone elders, and she has written in Northern Tutchone others that she herself remembered . She has also written what may be regarded as a special genre of hunday that presents her geographical knowledge of her Northern Tutchone homeland through accounts of her lifelong experiences in the region. She derived her geography from her family’s nomadic life and from elders’ identification of topographical features by Northern Tutchone names. Daughter of Jim and Jessie Shorty, Gertie Tom was born in  at the  Northern Tutchone confluence of the Big Salmon and Yukon Rivers. At that time Northern Tutchone people inhabited the village of Big Salmon there, about halfway between Whitehorse and Dawson. Given the Northern Tutchone name Et’ä´ts’inkhälme, Mrs. Tom belonged to her mother’s clan, Hanjä´t (Crow). Growing up along the Big Salmon River meant traveling with her family to fish and hunt and to cut wood, which they sold as fuel to the riverboats. Mrs. Tom has written that during her first twenty years she and her brothers and sisters ‘‘hardly spoke English’’ and that her parents taught her the Northern Tutchone names of ‘‘the places we travelled to – – lakes, rivers, mountains’’ (Èkeyi ). She and her family moved to Whitehorse in , as sternwheeler traffic on the upper Yukon River was diminishing. Big Salmon Village has been deserted since the early s, when the boats stopped running altogether . In Whitehorse over the past fifty years, Mrs. Tom has been engaged in various occupations calling upon her Northern Tutchone and English language skills. She was a translator and broadcaster for cbc Radio from  to . She worked for the Northern Health Service in the late s and early s. In the summer of  she did some translating for the Alaska Highway Pipeline Inquiry. From  to  she served as Northern Tutchone Specialist with the Yukon Native Language Centre, earning a Native Language Instructor Certificate from Yukon College in . Ritter, director of ynlc, has written that she is ‘‘the first Northern Tutchone speaker to help devise and learn to use a writing system for her language.’’ As Founding Elder , Mrs. Tom continues to work part-time at ynlc in workshops and training sessions. She sews and does craftwork, some of which has been displayed in museums in Vancouver and Ottawa. Her published work consists of hunday and educational materials: How to Tan Hides in the Native Way, a student’s noun dictionary, conversational lessons in Northern Tutchone, and Èkeyi: Gyò Cho Chú (My Country: Big Salmon River). Èkeyi grew from a place-name project designed at the Yukon Native Language Centre as an exercise for Mrs. Tom while she was learning to write Northern Tutchone. Although her parents had been first to teach her about their home landscape, she sought further topographical information from other elders. Ritter has observed that as Mrs. Tom ‘‘became more comfortable with the writing system, her interest shifted to documentation of how and where her family had travelled in her childhood, of stories she had heard, and of Tutchone place names she...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780803202368
MARC Record
OCLC
607194129
Pages
394
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-10
Language
English
Open Access
No
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