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Welcome to the Chief Isaac's People of the River. The website if for anyone interested in Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (Han) history and the Chief Isaac family.
BackgroundChief Isaac was the well-known chief of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (Han) during the Klondike Goldrush of 1896 that resulted in the influx of thousands to their homeland. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in or People of the River is a small first nations group at Dawson City, Yukon at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers.
The Tr’ondëk people were connected to and dependent on their relationship with land, water, animals and air. They were hunters and gatherers who had portable dwellings made of hides so they could move with the seasons and animals across the land. Although they traded with white pioneers in the north long before the 1896 Gold Rush, the Gold Rush itself proved to be a major impact to their culture and traditional way of life but also defines who they are today.
Tr’o signifies the hammer rock used to drive the salmon weir stakes into the mouth of the river; ndëk means “river”. Another interpretation uses the word Kl’o, which means grass, and translates roughly to: “waters flowing through the grass at the mouth of the Klondike.” The word Hwëch’in means the “people”. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in means: “the people who lived at the mouth of the Klondike”. Source: Gerald Isaac.
The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have been known by many names. Early Yukon explorer, fur trader, grubstaker of the early Klondike prospectors and Father of the Yukon, Jack McQuesten was the first white explorer thought to have referred to the Tr’ondëk by their own name. He called them Trondick, Trondiak, Trundeck, or Tronduk. McQuesten an independent trader of the Alaska Commercial Company was the first trader to establish a trading post in Tr’ondëk territory at Fort Reliance in 1874. Fort Reliance was located across the river from a now abandoned Tr’ondëk traditional camp known as Nuclaco. Fort Reliance was about 10 kilometers downstream from the future Dawson City.
The journal of the Reverend R. McDonald, May 26, 1875 provides the following: "Trotsik Kutchin, or Trotskik Kutchin, or Tchotsyik Kutchin, or Truthtsykk Kutchin, or Trurhtsyik Kutchin, or Trooth tsik Kuitchin which means “Stone-Hammer River Tribe.”
Tappen Adney who wrote for Harper's weekly during the Goldrush and was a friend of Chief Isaac referred to the Tr’ondëk as Tro-chu-tin. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have also been known as the Han, or Han Hwech'in. Han is the language which they speak. Although related to other Athabaskan language groups, Han is a unique and endangered language only spoken by the people that originated from the Dawson City, Yukon and the Eagle, Alaska areas. The Han language and people were also traditionally referred to as Takudh by the Tr’ondëk themselves.
At one time, the first nations people at Dawson and Eagle were part of one larger group that roamed large traditional area but trading posts, the church and the government eventually encouraged them to settle and the international Yukon-Alaska boarder divided them.
Purpose of this WebsiteThis website is dedicated to Chief Isaac, his family and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in . The purpose of this website is to provide history of our people, and to provide a repository for historical accounts, old photographs and stories.
This site was originally started on 13 January 2009 by the descendants of Chief Isaac.
Much of the content of this site has been provided by Joy Isaac, grand daughter of Chief Isaac and Eliza Isaac.