Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Sók Neyni'in

Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Sók Neyni'in

Article excerpt

I recently spent the weekend at Little Salmon Lake in south-central Yukon Territory which is in northern Canada. It was my Erst visit to the place that created and sustained my paternal grandmother's lineage. As Tagé Cho Hudän (Big River People), we are made of the lands and waterways in and around Little Salmon Lake.

Because of history, circumstance, choice, chance, and force, I grew up far away from Little Salmon. As a result, my relationship with our homelands is quite different from that of my ancestors. There are a lot of things I cannot do that my ancestors did all the time: make and set net, gut and smoke hsh, build a cache to store food, kill and skin a moose, tan hide, make clothes, make canoes, traverse the land with ease and confidence. We did all these things to ensure our physical survival.

To ensure our spiritual and cultural survival, we told stories about who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. We always told our stories from memory, in a language that sounds like snow breaking underfoot, ravens calling to one another at dawn, and winds traveling down mountainsides. Ndíthak. Sók neyni'jn Iyénlan.

Without a written language, we entrusted our stories to the land. She has held them for us since the beginning of time. When the moment was right or a situation called for it, she would share a story through us. Our job was to read her and give voice to the stories that revealed themselves to us in the sway of lodgepole pines or the wake of a spawning salmon or the shadows cast by the midnight sun.

However, because of history, circumstance, choice, chance, and force, our ability to practice our form of ancestral literacy is threatened. This is because our land bases and waterways are under siege, and our People are occupied, distracted, or lured far away from where we are needed. Although the land continues to fulfill her commitment to us and hold our stories, fewer and fewer of us are around to read her.

Every day Indigenous peoples-like my family and others, everywhere- are fighting to protect and occupy our homelands, and every day the state is finding new and coercive means of removing us. …

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