Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites

Welcome to Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites, an online resource dedicated to exploring our history and culture.

Black City: Reverend Richard Martin

Reverend Richard Martin in Dawson wearing a beaded stole made by Sara Simon (from Fort McPherson).

Reverend Richard Martin in Dawson wearing a beaded stole made by Sara Simon (from Fort McPherson).

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Archives, Ken Snider Coll., 2004.6.10. Image retouched by Rob Ingram, Midnight Arts.
Bishop Tom Greenwood with Reverend and Mrs. Mary Martin, ca. 1950s.

Bishop Tom Greenwood with Reverend and Mrs. Mary Martin, ca. 1950s.

Yukon Archives, Anglican Church of Canada, Diocese of Yukon fonds, 89/41, #1404.

I live at my home at the head of Peel and Porcupine Rivers. My Missionary work — I begin Sunday morning at 11 o'clock, and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon I have school and Bible class, and at 7 in the evening I have service again. Sometimes I go down to Eagle and do all the same there...

Richard Martin, Synod Report, ca. 1920

The First Nations church worker most closely associated with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in was the Reverend Richard Martin, ordained in 1926. Born at the head of the Peel River, this Gwich’in man was a proficient hunter, trapper and guide. As a young man, he guided at least one police patrol in the northern Yukon. Martin lost the sight of both eyes in two separate accidents, losing the second eye only a few months after his ordination. After unsuccessful efforts to restore his sight, he settled permanently at Moosehide. Despite his handicap, Reverend Martin played an important role in Anglican Church affairs in the community and the Yukon.

He ministered to the spiritual needs of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in during the many intervals between missionaries or when missionaries were away on leave. He interpreted for the ministers who were unable to speak or understand Hän. At Synods for the entire Diocese, he was an inspiration for younger ministers. Many decades after his loss of vision, Martin was able to vividly describe the landmarks of his homeland in the Blackstone River country. Martin remained in Moosehide long after most residents had moved to Dawson, but he finally left the community for good in 1962. When he died in 1975 at the age of 95, the people of Fort McPherson chartered an airplane to attend his funeral.

To learn more about Reverend Richard Martin and his life, see the story Reverend Richard Martin (PDF) from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Interpretive Manual.