This Week in History
For the week of Monday March 28, 2011
On April 1, 2002, the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Self-Government Agreement with the governments of Canada and the Yukon took effect. While the Ta’an Kwäch’än (“People of Lake Laberge”) have governed themselves for generations, the road to modern governance within Canada began a century earlier, under the leadership of Chief Jim Boss (Kashxóot or Kishwoot).
Chief Jim Boss realized he needed to secure land for his people in order to protect their livelihood. On January 13, 1900, Boss made the first formal land claim in the Yukon and petitioned the Yukon Commissioner for a reserve of approximately 971 hectares. They instead gave him 130 hectares. In 1902, Boss commissioned lawyer T.W Jackson to write to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, asking him to protect the Ta’an Kwäch’än’s hunting rights. This letter contained his famous dictum, “Tell the King very hard we want something for our Indians, because they take our land and game.” This request was not acted upon.
The influx of new settlers threatened the Ta’an Kwäch’än way of life, but it also introduced new opportunities. Boss industriously adapted to the new economy by establishing roadhouses for trading goods with gold prospectors. The Ta’an Kwäch’än had historically been skilled traders with their coastal Tlinget neighbours. Boss used this knowledge to make these roadhouses a financial success. Through Boss’s efforts the Ta’an Kwäch’än became prosperous, but the more important issues of land claims and preserving their traditional livelihoods would take decades to resolve.
Modern negotiations for self government began in 1973, when the Yukon First Nations stated their grievances and proposed solutions to the federal government. On January 13, 2002, the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council held a signing ceremony for its Self-Government Agreement, one hundred years after Jim Boss’s first land-claim request. In April the Ta’an Kwäch’än became the Yukon’s eighth self-governing First Nation.
For providing guidance, vision and inspiration to the Yukon First Nations during the difficult times and massive changes of the early 1900s, Chief Jim Boss (Kashxóot) was designated a national historic person in 2001.
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