Traditional Homeland

Traditionally families fished and lived along the Takhini River and the shores of Kusawa Lake.

Peeling Bark

Some families established permanent cabins and camps and still utilize them today. It was also a place where steamboats would land their boats. Steamboat Landing (Dùuchùgà, “Driftwood creek”) is located just two kilometers down the Kusawa Road.

Archealogical finds in the area show the human dance of life in the Kusawa area — the hardships and the joys — have been going on for over 5000 years, and continue today. The family and individual histories of birth, life, struggle, celebration, growing wisdom, and death connect the First Nations to this land in a way that is important to acknowledge, respect, preserve and pass on to others.

Kusawa Lake is an important area for First Nations people whose history and ties to the land goes back many, many years. The Tlingit name is Kusawu.â meaning “long lake,” while the Southern Tutchone name is Nekhų Män, meaning “raft crossing.”

According to oral history Kusawa belonged to both the Crow and Wolf clans. Certain areas of the lake were designated to different clans. Nekhų, the narrows, belonged to Nùlatá, a Wolf person. Aboriginal orator and community historian Mrs. Annie Ned had said “Nùlatá was not stingy with the place” so people came from Dezadeash, Hutchi, Laberge, Carcross and Tagish to fish. They traveled on the lake by rafts, canoe and moosehide boats. They came to Nekhų because there were so many fish there, particularly in the winter because it did not freeze over.

There was an abundance of other animals also, as stated by Mrs. Ned: “Before Coast Indians, before guns, they had ranch for moose at [Kusawa]. They got corral there, set snares. Then everybody came there – lots of meat, lots of fish. They helped together.”

Two elders

Caribou

Mrs. Ned also spoke about caribou being “all over this place.” Evidence of this was proven by the nearby discovery of the Ice Patch artifacts. Thandlät, a mountain to the west of the lake, is where the first atlatl dart fragment was found. It was dated at 4,300 years old. Many other artifacts have been found in the Kusawa region. Oral history tells us that a corral, or caribou fence was located on the east side of the lake, between the lake and the mountain.

Salmon

Klukshu and Kusawa Lakes are so close to each other and yet Klukshu has sockeye and coho salmon and Kusawa does not. When Crow was making the world he was flying all over thinking hard about what to do with the fish. He decided to go to Klukshu and held one wing toward the coast, proclaiming that that drainage should be filled with sockeye, coho and chinook salmon. He then held his other wing toward the Yukon drainage and said that the lakes on that side will be filled with chinook salmon. Had Crow not done this, Kusawa would have had more salmon too.