Elder Gertie Tom, was born and grew up in the Big Salmon River region of central Yukon. In 1948, her family moved to Whitehorse, which is where she still lives today. Her Northern Tutchone name is Et’ats’inkhalme and she is a member of the Crow clan.
Gertie learned about traditional garments and how to sew by her mother. Due to the convenience of ready-made items being available in stores, Gertie saw that many traditional items were no longer being made. She wanted to preserve the skills of her people which lead to her producing traditional items herself as well as writing several books including My Country and How to Tan Hides.
Gertie has also been involved in native language work for about 25 years. From 1961 to 1965, she worked as a part-time translator and broadcaster for CBC Radio in Whitehorse. During the late 60’s to early 70’s she was employed as a Community Health Worker by the Northern Health Service, using her knowledge of native languages to assist doctors and nurses in communicating with older Yukon First Nations people. In 1977, she began working as a Native Language Specialist with the Yukon Native Language Centre, where she assisted in the development of the alphabet for Northern Tutchone, and various language booklets. She retired in 1992, but continues to make valuable contributions to language teachings and documentation, and through her production of traditional garments.
Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association
1-1109 Front Street (White Pass Building)
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A-5G4