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At Moosehide Gathering, Alaska Natives keep culture alive with Canadian relatives

Passengers line up to board a skiff shuttling guests from Dawson to the village of Moosehide, two miles down the Yukon River, for the 2010 Moosehide Gathering. The Moosehide Gathering is a festival held in Moosehide, Yukon territory every other year.
Mike Dunham / Alaska Dispatch
St. Barnabas Anglican Church, built in 1908, is the first thing visitors see when they arrive in Moosehide. The Moosehide Gathering is a festival held in Moosehide, Yukon territory, every other year.
Mike Dunham / Alaska Dispatch News
A skiff shuttling visitors from Dawson arrives in Moosehide on the Yukon River for the 2014 Moosehide Gathering, while a paddlewheeler with sightseers goes by. The Moosehide Gathering is a festival held in Moosehide, Yukon territory, every other year.
Mike Dunham / Alaska Dispatch News
Georgette McLeod, Tr'ondek Hwech'in language coordinator, (left) embraces Daisy Northway of Tok, Alaska, at a ceremony in Moosehide, Yukon territory, July 26, 2014. The ceremony was to honor Northway's aunt, the late Laura Sanford of Tanacross. Sanford, seen in the framed photograph, was the "main leader" in an effort to recover songs and dances that had been forgotten by her Native relatives in Canada, said Tr'ondek Hwech'in elder Doris Roberts. The Moosehide Gathering is a festival held in Moosehide, Yukon territory, every other year.
Mike Dunham / Alaska Dispatch News
James Afcan, in the blue kuspuk, leader of the Yup'ik Miracle Dancers and Drummers of Wasilla, dances with the Han Dancers of Dawson at the Moosehide Gathering July 26. A major purpose of the biennial festival held in the village of Moosehide, Yukon territory, is to celebrate the unity of Native people on both sides of the U.S./Canadian border. The Moosehide Gathering is a festival held in Moosehide, Yukon territory, every other year.
Mike Dunham / Alaska Dispatch News
Mike Dunham

Every other summer, the village of Moosehide in the Yukon takes on the look of a medieval fair. Colorful tents and pavilions fill the space between old log cabins, dotting the grassy field that runs from the hilltop cemetery down to the big bank overlooking the river.

Four banners fly over the Gathering, which happens every other year. There's the tribal flag of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, the hosts of the event; the Canadian flag; the Yukon flag -- and the Alaska flag.

Few Alaskans know about Moosehide. But the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in are keenly aware of their place, a few miles east of the line between the U.S. and Canada. They have friends and relatives on the other side of that line -- Alaskans who played a crucial role in helping them resurrect their traditions and culture.

Read more: At Moosehide, one tribe reunites across border to reclaim traditions