Tr’ochëk: Mining Claims & Land Claims
Chief Steve Taylor proudly displays the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in final agreement at the official signing at Moosehide in 1998.
In 1960, the First Nations people of the Yukon were finally given the right to vote in federal elections. In 1973, the Yukon First Nations presented the Canadian governments with the document Together Today for our Children Tomorrow: A Statement of Grievances and an Approach to Settlement by the Yukon Indian People. It was the first comprehensive land claim submitted to the Canadian government by any native group. But it was not until 1992 that Tr’ochëk was recognized as a formal part of the land claim.
In the meantime, the site was almost destroyed. In the late 1970s, several mining claims were staked at Tr’ochëk. The First Nation and numerous representatives from Yukon heritage groups insisted that a site of such cultural and historic importance should be preserved. Nonetheless, in August 1991, a placer miner leased the claims and began mining the site. When he stopped, approximately 3.3 hectares (8 acres) of Tr’ochëk were ravaged and left covered by two large settling ponds and great heaps of gravel.
Despite a petition to the Canadian government requesting that Canada stop mining activity at Tr’ochëk, no action was taken and it appeared additional mining was imminent. The heart of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional territory was threatened with obliteration.
This story does have a happy ending. In May 1997, the First Nation announced that the Canadian government had purchased all mining interests on the site for approximately one million dollars. The ancient village site is to be protected “for all time” as Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in settlement land and a heritage site under the First Nation’s final agreement.