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In July of 2017, a group of Kluane First Nation citizens, along with several Parks Canada staff representatives, returned to their traditional territory in the Bighorn area that is now included in the boundaries of Kluane National Park for the 2017 Bighorn Culture and Tourism Camp. The camp was hosted on the shore of Bighorn Lake at the site of the Parks Canada wardens cabin, in a part of Kluane that many of the First Nation attendees had heard of in the stories of the Elders but never seen, as coordinated by Kluane Community Development LP and Parks Canada

On July 9th the Camp Cooks, KCDLP support staff, and Parks Canada arrived on site to prepare the camp for attendee’s arrival the following day. Several tent and wall tent sites were arranged for sleeping accommodation, tarps raised for sheltered casual areas, and a latrine established.

Unfortunately, due to severely inclement weather the attendees were unable to reach the fly-in location via float plane as planed on the 10th. Heavy rain had caused several issues at the site as well and our team spent the day relocating some of the tents and reinforcing them with extra tarps. The latrine was relocated to higher ground and its former site was remediated.

Tarping in the tents
Tarping in the tents

In the late morning of July 11th, the first group of guests touched down on the water of Bighorn Lake. Although several attendees had dropped out due to the poor weather the camp slowly filled with people as the plane came and went throughout the day. By the evening there were groups of KFN kids playing in the creeks that ran through camp and parents, elders, and others sharing food and stories around the fire.

Parks Canada staff receiving the first flight of guests
Parks Canada staff receiving the first flight of guests

The weather improved somewhat on the following day and an excursion was made by part of the group including Chief Dickson, members of the KFN Council, and Parks Canada staff to the proposed site of the Kluane First Nation Cultural Tourism resort development. The Chief and Council and Parks representatives enjoyed discussion of the traditional and modern used of the area, and the possibilities and impacts foreseen in the future ambitions of the proposed project.

Later that afternoon a collapsible canoe brought by a guest was assembled and turns were taken paddling the calm lake water. The rain returned that evening and the camp was grateful for the warm food and warm fires under the tarps and in the cabin.

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On the following day several groups broke from camp to hike. An attempt was made to reach the Donjek Glacier but was thwarted by high water at the Bighorn Creek Crossing. The collapsible canoe made a trip a ways down the Donjek River. Many chose to stay near the warm fire and good food to share more stories and play games. Parks staff engaged with KFN youth in identifying local plant varieties. And elders enjoyed counting Dall Sheep and white rocks on the mountains across the lake from camp.

Sadly, a KFN Citizen had passed away during the camp. Attendee’s gathered at the camp early that evening in respect as KFN Elder Alice Johnson sang and drummed traditional songs in celebration of that life.

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KCDLP would like to thank Parks Canada for their generous contributions and participation that helped to make this camp a success.  A big thanks to KFN Chief and Council members for joining us, and to all the KFN participants who made the week so much fun!