For millennia, the Vuntut Gwitchin of Old Crow travelled their traditional territory on foot or by water. Life was attuned to the seasons: when the fish were running in the river, when the caribou were migrating, and when berries and other plants were ready to harvest. When European traders entered their land and built trading posts, life became a little more focussed on places where people could trade furs and other products from the land for manufactured goods and items such as tea, tobacco and sugar.
When the Exhams moved to Old Crow, air travel was becoming commonplace but people still lived a largely traditional life on the land, tied to the seasons and the annual movements of the salmon and caribou. Fetching water and cutting wood for heat and cooking was part of daily life. There was a grocery store, but much of the food still came from the land. In spring, families trapped muskrat at the Old Crow Flats and the whole town became involved in the hunt when the caribou were migrating near the town.
With little outside contact, social activities were important to the community. Dances, visiting and working together to harvest food were characteristic of life in Old Crow. People had family ties up and down the river in little camps and settlements from Alaska, through the Yukon and into the Northwest Territories. Every arrival of a plane, supply boat, or visiting family was a social event.
Visiting was an important activity for the Anglican minister as well as community elders. In this way people kept in touch with neighbours, worked together on sewing projects, passed on stories and traditions, and learned when anyone in the community needed help.
The gallery below is a selection of photos from Beth-Ann Exham's collection.
'The plane in which I arrived.' 1965. Exham coll.
Rev. Exham & Richard Martin also Peter Charlie (from back, facing Rev. Martin) 1965. Exham coll.
Airline office and school supply storage building. Exham coll.
Willie Thomas carrying wood from raft on river to church. Exham coll.
Canvas boats returning to Old Crow, June 1965-69. Exham coll.
Donald Frost, Ellen Bruce at Joe Netro's Store 1965-69. Exham coll.
Mary Kaye is saying, "Would you like a ham?'' Exham coll.
Preparing tor the feast. A moose was shot and taken to the doorstep of someone whose family then had to put on the feast. Exham coll.
Stephen Frost catching muskrat for the "cat" skinning contest.
The women of Old Crow pull together in the July 1st tug-o-war against the men of the village. . Exham Coll.