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In the old days, the hand games were an important part of the festivities, which occurred when different groups met on the trail. Elijiah Andrews describes that, at Martin house, he encountered groups of Teetl'it, Gwichya and Slavey people. Hand games were in progress, and lasted for several days.
The hand game was and is one of the most competitive of all the traditional Dene games. Matches shot, powder or tobacco-which of course, were hard to come by in the old days were often staked.
In the old days only men took part in the hand game and played the drums; young boys played and practiced among themselves. Women and girls do not play. But now young and old are able to play.
Objective of the Stick Gambling Game:
Two teams of equal numbers knelt on the ground facing each other in pairs. Hiding their hands between their thighs or underneath the blanket, each player on the one side of the 'playing' team, shuffled a token, (idzi), from fist to fist. They were supported by a number of drummers who lined up behind them, drumming and singing gambling songs. Upon a handclap from the leader, the 'captain', of the opposing team, they stopped their movements and showed their fists; the drumming ceased. The captain used a hand signal to guess the position of the token relative to body side, against all players on the other side at once. A correct guess by the captain eliminated a player from that round of play. For each wrong guess, the captain gave a counting stick to the other team. When all opposing players had been eliminated, the right to hide the idzi passed to the other side. The team holding all of the sticks won the round.
The most common kinds of trees are evergreens - spruce, pine & fir. These trees have needles - like leaves - that are green year round. Other common trees are birch, poplar, willow, cotton wood and aspen. These trees turn brilliant yellows and reds in autumn, and then lose their leaves until the following spring. The coastal and the Yukon trees are very different in size. For example, if a Yukon tree is 100 years old, it would only be 50 years old on the coast. Because of the cold climate, the trees age slower, which makes them much stronger than the costal trees.
First Nation people use trees of the Yukon as a resource of food, medicine, shelter and tool making.
The most important is the spruce tree because it grows like hard wood. This wood was used for things like toboggans, hunting spears, etc.
Other trees such as poplar, willow, birch, pine, white spruce, alder, balsam and tamarack are useful to the First Nation people but it all depends on the season.
These trees were used as medicines for when people became sick; the tree sap for example would be used for mouth sores, sore throats and bad coughs.
Berries are an important part of the First Nation's diet. When in season the berries were eaten fresh, and in the winter the berries were dried and stored in a cool spot.
Cranberries were picked as late as possible and were kept all winter in a dry storage place.
Other berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries would be put in a moose or caribou skin sac, mixed and pounded. This was used as a travel snack. Another berry that is important to the Yukon First Nation people is the soapberry, which is found in open woods, gravel soil and dry slopes. The soapberry was used as a drink for tuberculosis and for cuts and swellings.
The Yarrow plant is an herb, found in dry areas. It is used for when a person has a cold of flu, or you would use yarrow as a tea which makes you sweat profusely. Also, inhaling vapors of the yarrow helps clear stuffed sinuses.
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