Kwanlin Dün First Nation
Linguistically, the Kwanlin Dün are affiliated with the Southern Tutchone Tribal Council. The Kwanlin Dün include people of Southern Tutchone, Tagish and Tlingit descent. A large part of the Kwanlin Dün citizens live in the Whitehorse area, with the balance dispersed throughout Canada, the U.S. (predominantly Alaska) and abroad.
The waterway now called Miles Canyon through to the Whitehorse Rapids was well known to generations of First Nations people. Our ancestors called the area Kwanlin, which means “running water through canyon” in Southern Tutchone.
Scarcely recognized today is the fact that for centuries, before the influx of recent adventurers, the headwaters of the Yukon River were home for the Tagish Kwan, and a regular meeting place for people of other first nations who came to trade with them, including the Tlingit, Kaska, Han, Gwich’in and Tutchone.
In 1900, life changed forever with the building of Whitehorse. Our people still made much of their living on the land but they now came to the new town to trade fur and find work. Usually, they continued to live where they always had, along the waterfront.
In 1900, at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush, Chief Jim Boss (Kishxóot) of the Ta’an Kwäch’än recognized that his people needed protection for their land and hunting grounds in the wake of a growing non-aboriginal population. Chief Boss petitioned the Commissioner of the Yukon, William Ogilvie, for a 1,600 acre reserve at Ta’an Män, which he had already surveyed. Instead, a reserve of only 320 acres was granted. Not satisfied with this outcome, in 1902 Chief Boss wrote to the Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa, demanding that over-hunting by newcomers be controlled and that his people be compensated for lost land and the impacts on wildlife. This letter contained his famous quote “Tell the King very hard we want something for our Indians, because they take our land and our game”. The only response Chief Boss received was that the police would protect his people and their land. The exchange of these letters represents the first attempt at land claims negotiations by a Yukon First Nation.
For the next 70 year, the federal government ignored similar pleas from Yukon First Nations. During that time the first inhabitants were repeatedly displaced from land they had used and occupied for centuries, with neither consultation nor compensation.
In 1956, the Department of Indian Affairs unilaterally decided there were too many Indian bands in the Yukon Territory and, for administrative purposes, joined six bands into three. This brought about the amalgamation of the indigenous people between Marsh Lake and Lake Laberge who, for various reasons, had migrated into the larger Whitehorse area. Thus, the Department of Indian Affairs created the Whitehorse Indian Band, known today as the Kwanlin Dün First Nation.
n 1972, a contingent of Yukon elders, led by the late Elijah Smith, a Kwanlin Dün elder, presented Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau with a document called Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. At the core of their message was a clear statement: “without land, Indian people have no soul – no life, no identity – no purpose”. Thus began a Yukon land claims process that still continues to this day.
In 1988, after many years of being displaced, Kwanlin Dün First Nation moved to its present site west of the Alaska Highway, on land intended for a subdivision adjacent to a pipeline that was never constructed.
After many decades of negotiating, Kwanlin Dün First Nation signed its Final Agreement and Self-Governing Agreement, which became part of Canada’s constitution, and came into effect on April 1, 2005. On this day, Kwanlin Dün officially became the tenth self-governing Yukon first Nation.
Since settling the Self-Government Agreements, the Kwanlin Dün have operated and negotiated with the Federal and territorial and all other governments as a self-governing First Nation government.
Kwanlin Dün has a diverse population and is located in the most populated area of the Yukon. The land claim agreements KDFN has negotiated with the Government of Canada and Government of Yukon contain many provisions that reflect the First Nation’s unique circumstances. (Source)
Final Agreement: http://www.kwanlindun.com/images/uploads/Final_Agreement.pdf
Self-Government Agreement: http://www.kwanlindun.com/images/uploads/SGA.pdf