Logan 1992 Climbers above Camp 4 at Prospector Col.
Logan 1992 Climbers above Camp 4
Photo © Michael Schmidt


The association of place names and people plays a significant role in the society of the Southern Tutchone. Again the relationship of the people to the land or vice-versa is reflected in how the landscape is named and defined. In the Kluane region the nomadic lifestyles of the people meant that they covered vast areas of land over the course of their lives. In pre-map times survival depended on the knowledge of their landscape and understanding where they were in relation to the seasons, animals, trails, trade routes, territories of others.


Relationship of Place Names and People


Many of the place names in the Kluane Region are descriptive in nature. Usually the meaning of a place name describes what it is, where it is located, if an event took place there, or something practical or obvious about the area. For example, Tachal Dhal (Sheep Mountain) translates in Southern Tutchone as the “flat faced mountain” describing the flat, rock exposed south-facing mountain. Tachal in southern Tutchone also means “skin scraper” or a sharp flat-faced object used to tan hides. However, some names have stories attached to them, often stories which go far back in time.


Southern Tutchone Place Names and Descriptions
The Southern Tutchone people used their landscape to place themselves within the world. The use of descriptive place names would ensure that this knowledge could be passed on to generations and their locations would still be known and understood.

Listen to the place names in Southern Tutchone

Slims River
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Descriptive name, refers to mountain by river, which stands alone by itself. Sources (1) (3)
 

Profile Mountain
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Descriptive name, the mountain is considered to be shaped like a heart. Source (2)
 

Dusty River
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River takes its name from the mountain that sits by its mouth, east side. Source (2)
 

Haines Junction
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Situated on Dezadeash River, it is at the intersection of traditional travel routes, and in the olden days was a convenient place to cache meat from game hunted in the nearby mountains. The caches were located where the new Champagne and Aishihik First Nations village is situated. Source (3)
 

Donjek River
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Descriptive name which refers to the white or silver berries that grow along the river. These are edible and the large seeds of the berries were used as beads for decorations. Sources (1) (3)
 

Congdon Creek
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Descriptive name. Trees along this creek’s floodplain have been uprooted by flash floods coming out of the mountains. Sources (1) (3)
 

Kloo Lake
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The name refers to traps for catching fish. Oral history reports that salmon used to spawn here before the Lowell glacier blocked the river, thereby stopping the fish from coming up to the lake. The lake is a traditional camping place, with an old village (with cabins and graveyard) on the west side of the lake, and a newer village on the south side of the lake near the highway. Sources (2) (3)
 

Kluane Lake
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Descriptive name, a lake where people catch fish. It is good for whitefish, as well as trout and thi or dog salmon. It is the biggest lake in the Yukon, and its deep waters can make for dangerous boating conditions at times. The English name for the lake is derived from Tlingit. Sources (1) (3)
 

Klukshu (Lake and Village)
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Descriptive name, a traditional Southern Tutchone fishing place, and is still an important seasonal village and gathering place for Champagne and Aishihik people. King, sockeye, coho and dog salmon come up Klukshu Creek to the lake. The Klukshu name is Tlingit, and means end of the salmon (that is, farthest point upstream). Sources (2) (3)
 

Kathleen Lake
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Descriptive name, the largest lake in Kluane National Park, is in a steep sided valley; winds on the lake make for dangerous boating conditions. The lake has a variety of fish, including two special ones, the pygmy whitefish and kokanee or land-locked salmon. Sources (2) (3)
 

Lowell Glacier
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The name refers to long ago event(s), when an advance or advances of the Lowell Glacier blocked salmon from coming up the river to spawn. The blockage likely had drastic consequences for the area’s residents, who would have relied on the salmon for food. The Lowell Glacier has advanced and blocked the river several times in the past millennium, and it is not certain which advance(s) this story refers to. Source (2)
 

Goatherd Mountain
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This mountain takes its name from the Lowell Glacier, which it overlooks. The glacier has advanced to the base of this mountain blocking the flow of the Alsek River in the past. Source (2)
 

Mt. Decoeli
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Information on how this mountain got its name has been lost. Clearly visible from Haines Junction, Mt. Decoeli is used as a weather guide or forecaster by local residents. Sources (2) (3)
 

Duke River
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Descriptive name - huge or powerful bear river. There are many large bears in this valley, which has also been an important travel route between hunting areas. Sources (1) (3)
 

Tatshenshini River
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The Southern Tutchone name for this river comes from the old settlement. The Tlingit name for this river is Alsèxh, from which the name Alsek is derived, while the Tatshenshini name, also Tlingit in origin, applies to a tributary upstream from Shäwshe. Around the turn of the 20th century, the river names got confused by outsiders new to the area, and the Alsek name became applied to the main branch of the same system, as it is today. Sources (2) (3)
 

Mush Lake
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Descriptive name. This lake takes its name from the mountain to the north, which is a source for paint or red ochre (hematite). Source (3)
 

Sheep Mountain
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Descriptive name. This is a flat faced mountain, similar to the flat stone scraper known as a tachal (variant spelling thetchel) that was used by women for preparing hides. Once a favoured sheep hunting area for the Southern Tutchone and now a favourite sheep viewing place. Sources (1) (3)
 

Bates River
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The name for the river is thought to have come from the lake (Bates) which it drains. Source (2)
 

Bates Lake
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Descriptive name. At Bates Lake, a giant snake once came ashore to a camp, chasing a small barking dog. It knocked down trees with its head. This lake barely freezes over because of the snake. Sources (2) (3)
 

Dezadeash Lake
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Descriptive name, reflecting Dezadeash Lake’s position at the head of the drainage system. There are many old campsites, cabins and caches around the lake, and traditional stories associated with the lake, including a 19th century conflict, where many people lost their lives. Sources (2) (3)
 

Dezadeash River
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Dezadeash River gets its name from the lake at its head. The river is also known by the name Shadhala Chu meaning Champagne River, Dezadeash River, or the river that flows by Champagne settlement. Sources (2) (3)
 

Burwash Creek
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Descriptive name - long grass water - grass is "sharp" or bladed. Source (1)
 

Pine Lake

Lake takes its name from the adjacent Paint Mountain which is a source of red mineral used to make paint and dye. This is also a good lake for whitefish. Source (3)