Dän Dhá Ts'edenintth'é = Reading Voices: Oral and Written Interpretations of the Yukon's Past


158 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88894-728-3
DDC 971.9'1004972





Reviewed by William A. Waiser

William A. Waiser is an associate professor of history at the University
of Saskatchewan.


Written by award-winning anthropologist Julie Cruikshank, Reading Voices
is designed to provide Yukon high-school students with a better
understanding and appreciation of the central place of aboriginal voices
in the territory’s pre–1900 history.

The book is a carefully crafted mix of oral and written accounts of
Yukon’s past. Beginning with the origins of the territory’s
landforms and natural life, Cruikshank examines the interplay between
Yukon’s indigenous population, outsiders (explorers, fur traders, and
miners), and the land. In each chapter, through the use of legends and
stories, published sources, maps, photographs (including artwork and
artifacts), and even songs, the written interpretation of Yukon’s
history is juxtaposed with the oral tradition. By such means, the author
demonstrates that written accounts are limited in that they largely
reflect the culture and values of outsiders, who usually spent only a
short period of time in the region.

She also argues that traditional stories have contemporary relevance if
the listener is willing to think about what is being told, and to ask
different questions; in fact, the reader is introduced to different
Elders throughout the book, and, in the words of the title, can read
their voices.

Finally, Cruikshank suggests that neither approach is better than the
other; rather, it is more important to consider and reflect on both the
written and the oral interpretations to achieve a more sensitive,
broader knowledge of Yukon’s history. This last point is effectively
illustrated through her examination of a particular incident from the
original Klondike gold rush.

This book should be a welcome addition to the Yukon school curriculum.
It should be read not only by students, but by anyone interested in how
the oral tradition can bring a different and equally vital perspective
to the understanding of our past and present.


Cruikshank, Julie., “Dän Dhá Ts'edenintth'é = Reading Voices: Oral and Written Interpretations of the Yukon's Past,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/12629.