When lake froze in winter,
When Caribou came,
It was just like horses, same.
You could hear their feet making noise,
Making noise [imitates hoofs on ice].
Lots of caribou covered up these hills.
I want to talk about this story,
old people tell this story.
One time, caribou took people
That man had a little bit of doctor, I guess;
Well, caribou took him.
Everybody felt bad: he was gone.
His wife was left alone.
Right in the middle of the lake, they heard caribou singing his song.
People don’t know what to do —
They tried to get him.
One man said, “Well,let’s go. We’re going to try.”
They’ve got bow and arrow, that’s all — they have no gun yet.
It was a long time ago, I guess.
They heard that man’s song.
I think it was wintertime.
That caribou just lay down in the middle of that ice.
All the time he stayed in the middle.
For a long time, they watched him.
Whenever they tried to come to that caribou, all the time he watched them.
He looked from person to person.
And all the time he didn’t sleep.
One man told them he was going to do it.
Then he sneaked in. [She shows how he wrestled with the caribou and held it down.]
The caribou spoke:
‘You smell,” he told people.
Well that man knew how to talk to caribou.
“What about your kids,” they asked him.
“Your kids are crying for you,” his own brother told him.
“What’s wrong with you?”
He couldn’t help it.
So they brought him. They brought him home.
They took him home!
I guess his wife is glad: he’s got kids too!
His wife came, and his kids.
He held his kids’ hands, but for his wife, nothing.
He doesn’t know her yet.
Well, they took him back.
They told him.
Then they watched him.
They made a camp for it [away from the human camp].
Somebody watched him there.
He wanted to go!
He doesn’t eat their food — he eats only willows.
You know what that means!
But they kept him the other side of the fire.
Then he came back to person.
But he can’t hunt caribou anymore.
This was way before my time, but I saw lots of caribou.
they came back, caribou.
All this mountain was covered by caribou.
Used to be we had caribou not too long ago when my kids were growing up.
One time lots of caribou fell through the ice, one lake.
I called my husband back to get the meat.
My mother-in-law came to get the skins.
She got enough that time: she had her son with her.
They are hard to clean when they fall in that way
That’s the last time that caribou came this way.
That’s the last time we saw caribou come.
But they didn’t come back. How come?
That man came back to person.
Then he knew where moose are, where caribou are.
He tells them, but he can’t hunt them.
That’s the last time caribou came this way.
Since then nothing.
After Skookum Jim found gold everything changed.
White people came to this country.
White people learned everything from Indians.
Now they want the whole thing, the land!
I’ve got 64 grandchildren in this Yukon.
I worry about them, what’s going to happen?
White people, where’s their grandpa? Their grandma?
Indians should have their own land
To be continued
From: Life Lived Like a Story
Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders
Julie Cruikshank. UBC Press.
Library in Toronto: http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDM521988&R=521988
Photo: Milo Burcham