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Caribou Days 2015
Caribou leg skinning competition© Parks Canada/L.Gorecki
Caribou Days honours the connection between Vuntut Gwitchin people and the Porcupine Caribou Herd, bringing the whole community together to celebrate the importance of this animal to their culture and way of life. This year the event was held from May 15 to 19, in Old Crow.
The Gwich'in Man competition© Parks Canada/L.Gorecki
Esau Schafer, a member of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and a Parks Canada staff person, describes the excitement and meaning of Caribou Days:
“This event has been created by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Government of Old Crow, Yukon. During this long weekend of May each year, we enjoy the spring weather and have a big celebration of the migration of the porcupine Caribou from their southern wintering grounds to their calving grounds in the northern Yukon and Alaska.
Parks Canada booth at Caribou Days© Parks Canada/I.McDonald
Our dependence on the Caribou has been with us for thousands of years and still yet today we practice the culture and share our teachings with our young generation, including the safety skills for being out on their traditional lands.
Parks Canada’s involvement with this event supports the protection of Vuntut Gwitchin culture and learning. At Caribou Days we provide information to the public about our work and programs, and share what’s happening in Vuntut National Park. We also work towards a close connection between Parks Canada and Vuntut Gwitchin Culture, by working together.”
Parks Canada staff and the Yukon Government caribou biologist win 2nd place in the wheelbarrow race© Parks Canada
This year the caribou arrived just in time for the celebration, passing by Old Crow on their way from their wintering grounds to the spring calving grounds on the Yukon’s north slope. Everyone was excited about the return of the caribou, and community members were able to enjoy successful spring hunting.
The weekend was filled with activities, fun and celebration, including many traditional and non-traditional games. Competitors showed off their skills at cooking bannock, skinning muskrat, and battled to win the titles of Gwich’in Man and Gwich’in Woman as they raced to set up and take down wall tents, shoot stuffed caribou with nerf guns, skin real caribou legs, and set up and undo traps. The jigging competitions, with live fiddle music, were another highlight of the event. Parks Canada is proud to be part of the event.