Traditional Way of Life
"Mayo elder Sam Peter relates that Fort Selkirk Indians traditionally traveled the Stewart River country to trap and hunt. From Fort Selkirk they traveled up the McQuesten River (Et`O Nyak-to paddle against the current) to the Beaver River, then down the Stewart to the McQuesten and back to Fort Selkirk. ... By 1901, the N. W. M. P. referred to McQuesten village as the headquarters of Stewart River people with fishing/hunting camps located above Fraser Falls and at Ethel Lake....Chief Johnson, was a leader at McQuesten village.
...Indian people came from fort Good Hope on the Mackenzie and stayed at Lansing...more people than at the village...People traveled back and forth...until the border was drawn between the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories(1898).
...at Lansing. Family groups went to various areas to make food, such as dry meat and fish, for winter. In winter they would leave to trap and come back to Lansing in the spring to trade furs...They went up the Stewart River, Rackla River, Nadaleen River, Beaver River and Hart River.
...approximately 90 miles southeast of Lansing Post, there apparently existed another Indian Village cira 1918...on April 29, 1938, prospectors Dick McDiarmid and Robert Martin described the abandoned village they had discovered at Husky Dog Creek while on a trip to the McMillan River Country. Husky Dog Creek lies east of Fair-weather Lake and flows into the North McMillan River. In the early days this stream was referred to as Husky Dog River rather than Husky Dog Creek.
...a deserted Indian village about two miles above the mouth of Husky Dog River. There were thirteen cabins...one of these being a big hall not completed...McDiarmid believes the Indians were from the Mackenzie River side as the cabins and buildings were all built with dovetailed corners and joining. Judging from what he saw Dick figured the camp must have been deserted about twenty years ago.
Sam Peter relates that this village was built by Mackenzie people from Fort Norman.
...In Part of the Land, Part of the Water Catharine McClellan describes the seasonal activities of Stewart River people until the arrival of outsiders:
People in the Mayo area could fish all year. In April, May and June they trapped grayling, especially at Fraser Falls, near the now abandoned trading post of Lansing. Families gathered there to catch and dry fish, and to hunt muskrats and beaver.
Summer salmon fishing followed. In late July, the salmon arrived at Dawson, and a week later they reached Mayo. Traps were set on the Mayo River near the mouth of Mayo Lake and near the old village of McQuesten on the Stewart River. Salmon were also caught near Fraser Falls, in eddies in the Stewart River, and along the Hess and Beaver Rivers. ...King Salmon ...in early August. ...The dog salmon that come later are usually in poor condition, and they were dried only for winter dog food.
In winter the people could still fish at Mayo Lake, Kathleen Lake or Ethel Lake, taking grayling, trout, whitefish, and jackfish with spears and nets. They could also stay on at Fraser Falls, where they could combine hunting and trapping with fishing.
...In the fall they snared sheep in the Ogilvie Mountains and around the Wind River or across the divide in the Mackenzie Mountains near the Arctic Red River. In winter, they built moose fences and caribou corrals in the mountains north of the Stewart River.
...Stewart River people speak Northern Tutchone (which is an Athapaskan language) and some of the people speak Loucheux and Slavery. They identify themselves with the moieties Crow and Wolf. (The traditional social patterns of Indian people are very complex.... The relationship between persons of the same crest (Crow or Wolf) is considered to be nearer than that of the same tribe or geographical group. Members of the same tribe may, and do marry but those of the same crest are not allowed. The child always takes the crest of the mother so that if the mother is a Wolf, all of her children will be Wolf. (In early times children received the name of their mother; so descent was traced from the mother, not from their father.) If a member of the Crow clan died, it was the responsibility of the Wolf clan to make the appropriate burial arrangements and the reverse if a member of the Wolf clan died.
...Elders pass their knowledge of herbal remedies to someone within the family unit and in that way it is carried to future generations.
...In the early days, Stewart people traveled to Fort Selkirk to trade and socialize.
...When the town of Mayo was established in 1903, the people at McQuesten moved to Mayo and settled near the place where the Mayo River (Tedze Nyak - Muddy Water) empties into the Stewart River. Their village at the mouth of the McQuesten River was abandoned.
... In 1908 James E. Ferrell bought Lansing Post from Braine and Nash. The Lansing country continued to provide trappers with a rich supply of furs. Lansing people were excellent builders. They were hardy people, often travelling and hunting for days in freezing weather with only one blanket. Church records show that Lansing people were Catholic and very much attached to their faith.
...In 1915, Ferrell sold Lansing Post to Jim Mervyn, a trader from Stratford, Ontario.
...In the same year Rev. Julius Kendi arrived at Fraser Falls (Tu Ninlin-Water flows over the rocks) where Mayo people were drying fish. Rev. Kendi was an Indian catechist of the Anglican faith, from the Peel River district. He was accompanied by Frank Buck. ... Mayo people referred to the language spoken by Rev. Kendi as "Moosehide language" meaning Loucheux.
...When Rev. Kendi came down from Fraser Falls to the Indian village at the mouth of the Mayo River, he asked the people to select a site where they could establish a village of their own. ...The decision was made to locate two miles below the village of Mayo on the banks of the Stewart River. "Tom" Moses was Chief at that time...people began building the church and rectory and homes for themselves.
... The village on the Stewart is now referred to as the "Old Village". People lived happily there, by all accounts, for 55 years.
...In 1918 the village at Lansing was decimated by epidemics of influenza and tuberculosis, leaving only a few survivors...Some remain at Lansing, others returned to Fort Good Hope, and some...settled in Mayo and other parts of the district.
...The missionaries (usually stationed at St. Mary`s Church in Mayo) were responsible for teaching Indian children; in turn, the Diocese received payment for each day the "school" was open.
...In the 1920`s and 1930`s, men began to work away from the village. They worked as market hunters and sold meat and fish in Mayo.
...Men also worked as deckhands on the riverboats, cut firewood for the steamboat engines, worked as camp hunters and guides and obtained work in the silver mines at Keno Hill. Colley Germaine, who hunted and trapped in the Ladue Lake district, was a licensed market hunter in 1935.
...A tremendous flood occurred on the Stewart River in 1936. The floodwaters inundated the Old Village and destroyed the church, and thus the schoolhouse. Sadly, the beautiful costumes and ornaments used for traditional dancing at the Old Village were washed away and never replace. ...Lansing Post was also devastated.
...After the flood, children from the village either attended school in Mayo, went to the Anglican residential school in Carcross (Chooutla) or the Catholic residential school at Lower Post.
...The church at the Old Village was rebuilt a little further from the riverbank, using the logs from the original structure.
...By the 1940`s, Indian people had moved out of Lansing entirely, leaving the place abandoned.
...Mayo Indian Band was organized in the early 1950`s along with all the other Yukon Indian Bands in the territory. The organization of Bands was directed by the Yukon Indian Agency and was controlled by the Federal Department of Indian Affairs. It introduced the concept of an elected chief and council. Until that time, the council of Elders had selected their leaders. A representative from each family unit constituted the general council.
...Government assistance for Mayo Indian people was introduced in the 1920`s but it was not fully understood by the people until the 1950`s. ...Indian people referred to this assistance as "Jaw Bone".
...In March of 1987, Mayo Indian people chose the name "Na-Cho Nyak Dun" which means "big river people" and in the summer of 1989 they returned to their traditional selection of chief and council.
...Mayo Indian culture is rich in songs, stories and legends of varying themes.
The legend of bushman is well known in the Mayo district...People of Lansing speak of "the place of shining rocks" in Bonnet Plume country which is guarded by huge birds with shaggy heads (like those of lions)."(Gold and Galena, a History of the Mayo District, PP.5-16)
... "Mayo was a fur trading centre. When gold and silver were discovered in local creeks, Mayo Landing emerged as a shipping port and served the mining industry until a road was built in the 1950`s. Afterwards Mayo became a prospecting base for mineral exploration in the surrounding areas.