Passing on the Tradition
Joe Tetlichi is the Chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board (PCMB). He was the Chief of the Tetlit Gwich'in
First Nation in Fort MacPherson before moving to Old Crow. Currently he is the Old Crow Community Justice Worker
and the Board Chair for the PCMB.
As the father of 2 sons and a tribal leader, Joe is concerned that his sons and the community continue with Gwich'in
traditions even as they are adapting to modern ways. Joe works hard to educate others about the importance of keeping
traditions and he is a fluent speaker of the Gwich'in language. The tradition of taking caribou for food is one
example that Joe feels is important to pass on. Hunting the caribou gives one the sense of satisfaction. Feelings
of self-worth and dignity are closely related to personal skill and self-reliance. In the midst of increasing northern
populations, development and exposure to southern society, the dependence on caribou continues.
Joe recently shared a story about hunting the caribou near his home in Old Crow. We share it with you:
"One Sunday in early April I heard from friends that caribou were about 2 hours away. We were out of meat
so I announced that it was time to hunt. My 7 year old son, Jami got so excited! He announced that he was going
along. I was very happy because the hunt is a tradition I want my son to participate in.
"On the way Jami got to drive the skidoo (snowmobile) to the hunt area. We arrived at the tents where the
boys had set up their hunting camp. We had some tea and talked about the caribou and where they were. We waited
there because we knew the caribou migrate late in the day. When it was time we went out to the site where others
had made a kill earlier. We saw nothing and decided it was still too early. We went back to the tents and shared
more tea and had some food. Now the time was right. We took the skidoo out about 5 miles onto a ridge with some
clearings. Now we waited. I told Jami that it was very difficult to see caribou in the trees and we needed to watch
carefully. We waited.
"Suddenly we both say it- about 50 caribou were coming over the ridge in and opening. Jami was so excited
and wanted me to shoot. I told him to wait and watch the animals. He was silent while we watched the animals move
across the ridge in front of us. His only word was, 'Awesome.' "The time came for me to shoot and I took 2
animals. After the first one fell he said, 'I am going to do that when I get big.'
"Keeping the traditional ways is so important for us. It made me very happy that my son finds excitement in
keeping the tradition of the hunt."
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