By Sarah Abel Chitze
I will tell a little about Rev. William Loola from Alaska. I remember he came to New Rampart House. This was before Amos Njootli, and no white minister was there.
Them days when we hear about minister coming, the people would prepare. They respect their minister highly. People get news of Rev. William Loola coming to Rampart House. News got to those who were making their living in bush all around.
They too came to join the minister. Everyone was coming by dog team. I remember looking down the river from the bank of Rampart House. Team after team, a long line of teams, lots of families at a time into their tents or cabins. It was very crowded.
At that time when a couple are to be married they stay together. Some have two or more children. When finally they see minister – they get married. When Rev. Loola came to Rampart House he married all those who were waiting to get married by minister. He also baptized many children and gave communion.
By Roy Moses
The old lady settled herself comfortably on the caribou skin mats and called for my attention. "Do you know how the Muskrat came to crow flats.?" She asked. Of course I did not know. She ordered her tea cup to be filled and that I sit and listen. This is when she told me the story of the Beaver and the Muskrat.
The young Muskrat had strayed from it's family and wandered up and down the river, enjoying the summer. In the same area, a young Beaver was having the same adventure. He had been kicked out of his parent's lodge as it was getting over crowded .
Soon the leaves were drying and the grass was withering, the air was getting crisp. The young Beaver had decided to build a lodge on the small creek that ran into main river. He dammed the creek to raise the water, then build a lodge in the bank upstream from the dam. The Muskrat was encountering some difficulties on the river. The swift water was getting colder and ice was forming on the shores.
He managed to climb a bank near a small stream that ran into the river. Some distance back from the river, there was a small lake. The Muskrat explored it and found that there was plenty of vegetation at the bottom of the lake and along the shore. He soon found a suitable bank and dug out a den. This is how these two animals spent the winter at the head of the waters.
The snow had melted, the sun was shining, birds were singing. Spring had arrived at the head of the waters. There were squeaking and cracking sounds coming from the river. Suddenly, and without warning, there were thundering, grinding sounds coming from the river. The ice was breaking up and flowing down the river. In the mean time, the Muskrat discovered the Beaver's dam.
The Beaver was well aware of the ice breakup and somewhat anxious for the river to clear so that he could travel. Little did he know what lay ahead!
The two met on the small creek where the Beaver had his lodge. They became aquatinted and soon referred to each other as cousins.
The two were very anxious to travel so they went to the river. There were logs and much debris drifting down the river. They climbed onto a log that was drifting near the shore. This was the beginning of their journey down river which is now known as the Porcupine River.
Whenever they got tired, they would swim ashore and rest. After they replenished themselves by feasting on the new willow shoots and fresh grass, they would resume their journey by swimming out and climbing onto another log or a drifting pile of debris.
They made a practice of sampling water in any creek or river that joined the great river.
Very early one morning they came drifting around a long bend and saw a river jointing the great river from the north. Their log drifted into an eddy at the point where the two great rivers joined. The Beaver immediately sampled the water and was convinced that it came from lakes. The Muskrat was also convinced that this river came from lakes but was quick to discourage the Beaver from exploring further. They crossed the new river and landed on the north shore to rest. Curiosity overwhelmed the Muskrat. He told his cousin that he would go for a walk.
The Beaver, not one for traveling over land, decided to satisfy his hunger with the new willow shoots and fresh grass on the river shore. Later, he got comfortable in the warm sunshine and slept.
In the meantime, the Muskrat started up the hill toward the mountain (which is now known as Crow Mountain.) The Muskrat soon found a caribou trail that went directly north toward the mountain. It was trampled down by herds previously headed north in the spring migration. The Muskrat followed the trail until he came to the top of the first mountain. From the top of the east end of the mountain he could not believe what he saw. There were lakes! Hundreds of them, as far as one could see. Just pass the next mountain, but there they were.
The Muskrat sat down and rested, then resentfully started on his return walk. Because if he did not return, the Beaver was sure to follow him and he definitely did not want to share the many lakes with anyone.
He came up with an idea when he was walking down the hill through a rocky creek bed. He stubbed his toe! After stumbling further, he bruised his feet by dropping a handful of rocks on them. When he finally returned to the river, the Beaver helped him with his wounds and decided to delay their journey. But the Muskrat being anxious to be rid of the Beaver, encouraged him to continue his journey by himself. So the Beaver prepared himself to leave. He returned to the shore one last time. This was farewell.
As friends often do when they part, the Beaver and the Muskrat traded gifts. They traded tails! The Beaver, secretly being suspicious of the Muskrat's journey up the hill, told him, "My long tail is easier for you to walk through the grassy areas, your flat tail will help me signal danger and will also be useful when building dams and lodges." With that he swam out and climbed onto a log and drifted down the river. As he disappeared around the bend, the Muskrat leaped to his feet with joy and headed directly north for the lakes which is now known as the Crow Flats.
This is how the Muskrat came to live in Vuntut!
My great grandmother Myra Moses told this story to me when I was 9 years
By Elder, Charlie Thomas - Translation by Roy Moses
The Bear Cave Mountain on which the cave is located is on the east side of the mountain. The TAKUDH people lived near the Ogilvie Mountains. In the past they lived mainly on moose, sheep and caribou. The Woodland caribou remain in this area. They traveled in 2 or 3's back and forth through the mountains. I have seen this when I trapped in this area. Charlie Thomas.
Kyhenjik was a powerful man, unusually tall and very muscular. In his day, people of his region were envious of such men and planned to kill such men. Adult men only stood up as high as his chest. He had a younger brother with family, he himself did not have a family. They were great hunters and kind people.
They were out on a hunting trip and came up on two moose, Kyhenjik's brother killed the first moose and he got the second one. When the rest of the hunting party came along and saw the younger brother skinning a moose alone, they killed him and covered him with snow. They continued on and came to Kyhenjik, who already finished skinning his moose and was already making camp fire. He asked, “ Where is my brother?”. They replied, “He is still skinning his moose.” At this he remarked, “ He don't take long with velvety antlers streaked with white, why should he take long with one that has no antlers?”. He is referring to fattened Bull moose in the fall with antlers covered with velvet streaked with white. He immediately suspected wrong doings and began getting angry, he cooked some meat by fire and also the moose head. He deliberately built up the fire to cook fast.
There on the outskirts was a young man who sat wearing his snowshoes as if ready to run. The only one like that. When Kyhenjik noticed a young man among the others shaking with fright, he inquired, “ What did that young man witness that he shakes with fright?” No one responded. His suspicions was confirmed.
The moose head was probably half done when he tore it down and started cutting it up, he kept the moose jaw to himself saying, “I'll keep the jaw club to myself”. When he fed the young men sitting next to him and noticed them shaking, he was quite ready to start taking revenge. He had a long sharp bone strapped to his elbows, both sides, protruding out backwards, finger length.
He jabbed the young men sitting both sides of him in the chest and picked up his caribou antler club and started around the campfire knocking off some of the men when he noticed the young man with the snowshoes, take off like a racer. Kyhenjik picked up a partly burned wood and threw it at the young man running on snowshoes and tripped him. He ran up on him and clubbed him to death saying, “This is how it is done.” He went back and finished off the rest of the hunting party. One must understand that the book of etiquette was not written yet so life was rather crude.
Kyhenjik was now left with two nephews, who he took with him to the fishing branch area, where he moved to. There he taught them about hunting and fishing and also to entertain themselves. Kyhenjik was a powerful man who was able to pull out a grizzly bear in hibernation, out by the ears and hold it out to his nephews, playing with them. Then they would kill it. On one such outing, the bear managed bit and broke one bone in the fore arm of one nephew. This nephew was left at camp always after that. When these nephews played, their uncle made a toy for them. It was called “Nuhiluk”, a floating toy. This toy was made of 3 hoops of willows, also with a retriever, also of willow.
He made two and told them to let him know if they float away. They were afraid they told him too many times while he was busy, so they let one get away. This toy was found by people looking for him and a man was traveling in his area, probably looking for him. When quite by accident he scared a mountain sheep toward his camp. When Kyhenjik saw the sheep running over the mountain toward his camp, he asked, “Why is that sheep running with fear of man?” he immediately ran up the mountain and threw rocks at the stubby trees with large branches growing on the mountain, knowing someone was there.
The intruder hid under one such tree. It is believed he had a strong enough shaman in him to divert Kyhenjik's attention away from himself. From that day forward, Kyhenjik was restless. This was probably around November, Kyhenjik was out hunting with his nephew. When they would return home, they would signal each other with the cripple nephew at camp. He would ask his nephew at camp, “Ditsi tutchun Ahh.” The nephew's response was “ooi, ooi.” This was their signal.
One day, late in the afternoon, Kyhenjik and his nephew were returning home after hunting, he was in a hurry because his footwear was frozen. Also his pack was heavy, this was the complete back fat of a grizzly bear which he carried on a stick.
The war party had found his camp, there were many people, estimated to be in the hundreds. They scared the crippled nephew into telling them of the signal and chose someone who sounded like him. Then they killed him. When the signal came that Kyhenjik was returning home, the chosen young man go ready to respond, but when Kyhenjik called out, the young man got frightened and lost his nerve. Kyhenjik heard a bad response and retorted, “ I asked for fire for my frozen footwear and no one paid attention, and now I hear a wrong response. At that moment the attack was on. Kyhenjik used the back fat as a shield but it soon tore down. The war party had lined up both sides along the trail to his camp. The arrows were coming like rain. When Kyhenjik heard his brother cry out in pain, he said “I haven't felt it yet, why are you crying?” Kyhenjik went after his attackers with his antler club. He managed to kill half of the war party. He was very fast and powerful.
Knowing that all he lived for was gone, he went up the mountainside on the south side. There he laid face up, rubbing his head against the rocks. The war party thought he was dying, so they sent up two very worthy warriors to get the bone works of Kyhenjik's before he ruined it all. When they sat at both sides of his shoulder to take the bone works, he sat up fast and grabbed both of them and tugged each under his arms. He said, “These will be in place of DITSI Tutchun.” He ran down the mountain and jumped. The two men bodies torn up to pieces. Kyhenjik landed further down. His stomach split open, as he piled his intestines near himself and said, “Don't ever say you killed me, say you orphaned me”, with that he laid down and died.
Gwitchin Legend By Tracy Kassi
This is a true story from the Vuntut Gwitchin. It happened a long time ago at Rampart House, Yukon.
One day all the men in the camp were getting ready to go out on the land, it was a bright sunny day. They did not need much to carry for their trip so they left their caribou pants hanging on willows, in the breeze. This was done intentionally for the young women in the camp were to pick their future husbands.
As the young men set off on their trip, the young women set out after the best pants they could find, thinking that the best dressed pants is from a young man, who takes care of his cloths well.
One of the young women was too late to choose and was disappointed to only find one pair of ragged, torn up, knee pants. Assuming that this came from a young man who didn't look after himself very well. She took the pants home, feeling very sad.
Later that evening, the young men returned home from their trip. The men had to go around to each campsite looking for their pants and to see who their future bride would be. One of the young men, was said to be a great leader one day because of his skills in leading his peers. He went to every campsite in the camp but did not find his pants until he noticed a camp far from the rest. He walked over to the camp and found a Grandmother and her young granddaughter inside the tent, both were sewing boots for the coming season of Fall. The young man asked if the young girl had chosen any of the pants hanging on the willows? She said, "Yes".
From that time, the couple were married and the young women who thought she had chosen a lazy man, chose the best worker of the camp.
So the lesson in this story, is to never judge a person by what they
In these days the people believed in Medicine Man only. There were a lot of Medicine Men. This happened to be the best Medicine Man. He usually brought home meat but this particular one could not get any meat for the people. One night one little kid was crying for meat (caribou) so the people decided to tell the little boy, "We'll bring you meat."
The kid said, "Let's make a fence." There was no sign of caribou or moose tracks even that they built a fence in one day. This fence was to capture caribou with. The boy directed the people in building the fence.
After the fence was completed the boy told the people to set all their snares in the fence. He sent the people out to round up the caribou and chase them into the fence. They drove a big herd of caribou into the fence. They caught caribou in every snare. Whatever got into the fence were caught in the snares. After all the caribou were killed and were being cut up the boy said to his dad, "Carry me all through the camp to each person who are cutting the caribou." They came upon the boy's uncle who was butchering a fat caribou. The boy asked his uncle for a piece of fat. The uncle was stingy for the fat. He didn't want to give the kid any fat. So the boy started crying when he couldn't get the fat. Lots of people offered him fat but he refused it. He wanted fat from his uncle's caribou. The people told the uncle that they would give him the same kind of fat to give to the boy but the boy didn't want it. All the men that cut up the caribou completed their cuts and carried meat home to their families who were all starving.
While all the men were leaving for their homes with their pack of meat the boy was still sitting there crying. He was crying because he knew all the people were going to starve to death. The boy's dad had one caribou so the boy told his dad to put all the cut up meat on the skin and put the load and himself home. When they got home the boy's dad cooked up the whole caribou except one ham and blood from inside the stomach. The boy was still crying. Everyone went to bed after they had eaten. During the night the people found the little boy missing. The boy had a marten skin pants but when the boy was missing they went out to look but found nothing but his pants hanging from the roof of the tent.
Next day the men went out to bring the rest of the caribou back. When they go there, all the caribou had come alive and ran away. Then the people realized that they weren't going to live so they all started crying.
Three nights later the boy came back home. He stayed with them for awhile and he said he was going to tell them something. He asked if they had any meat left. They replied, "One ham and some blood left". The boy said, "Every night eat piece of meat off the shoulder but don't break the bones." After you've finished the meat wrap the bone in a white tanned caribou skin and bury it under the snow.
Every morning when they take the shoulder bone out from under the snow it is covered with meat and there is always blood with it. The boy said to his parents, "Don't share the meat with anyone." He also said he was going to the moon and live there as long as the earth is still here so don't cry for me. He said if the moon eclipses forward this means the people are going to starve but if it eclipses backwards that means there's going to be lots of meat. He also said when the moon eclipse backwards each person should be happy and carry a little bag of food around with them and give food to the old people and to the helpless.
Everyone should sing during this time as follows:
"I'm going to drink caribou blood."
And when the moon eclipse forward everyone should cry because this means starvation for everyone.
The boy saved his mom and dads' lives and from then on the population started to increase. This is why there is people in the world today.
On a clear night you can see the boy in the moon holding a piece of the caribou blood in his right hand.