Yukon First Nations

About one-quarter of all people living in Canada’s Yukon Territory are of Aboriginal ancestry and belong to one of fourteen Yukon First Nations. There are eight First Nations language groups throughout the Yukon.  Performing and visual artists from each group help to keep the culture alive through their rich stories, legends and traditions, passed on through the generations.
The works of First Nations artists and artisans are highly regarded for their exquisite craftsmanship and remarkable insight into the natural and spiritual worlds.

During historical times, First Nations people lived off the land, traveling on a seasonal round of fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. This forged a respect for the land, its creatures and the forces of nature. This relationship with the land inspires many of the designs and motifs seen in the work.

Oral teaching tools also inspire the art produced. Some legends produce similar themes based on lifestyle but because of the isolation of the groups, the art created by each has particular differences.

For example, people who study the beading traditions made by various language groups can tell where a specific piece was created, often by the shape of the image or type and colour of beads used.

West coast images, the most prevalent of First Nations carvings were carried inland by the Tlingit, some of whom remained and became known as inland Tlingit.

The Gwich’in who reside in the far north have very little carvings due to the scarcity of trees or suitable carving rock.  The Kaska use moose antler, inland Tlingit use wood, often brought up from the Coast, as they have maintained their links and traditions with that region.

The culture of Yukon's First Nations people evolved over millennia into the rich tapestry of dialects, arts, crafts, cuisines, and practices that we enjoy today. The culture is expressed through rich storytelling, music, dance, poetry and both functional and decorative traditional arts and crafts.