In the wilderness lies the preservation of the world.
Henry David Thoreau
How did the Gwich’in use to celebrate Christmas?
Elders are the most respected people here. They know all the stories, and by telling them, they pass on the culture of the Gwich’in as well as important life lessons.
Jijuu is the Gwich’in word for grandma. I am so honored to have met Jijuu Snowshoe, and that she wants to share her stories with me, and thus with all of you as well.Back in the day, when the Gwich’in were still travelling around on the land following the caribou, and even when they settled down by the Peel River in tents, Christmas was just another day of the year.
After the Anglican missionaries had arrived and brought the tradition of celebrating Christmas, it still was not the big, rather material festivity that it is for most of us today, as my generous host Winnie thankfully shared with me. Instead, people would go around and visit each other, sharing lots of traditional foods, that is fish and caribou meat. They were thankful for each other and for the land that sustained them. Only in the 70s, when a lot of government jobs started to be available, people were able to afford different foods and presents and Christmas turned into the big event the way we know it today.