Gwich'in History

We are one of the most northerly Indigenous peoples on the North American continent, living at the northwestern limits of the boreal forest. Only the Inuit live further north. We are part of a larger family of Indigenous people known as Athapaskans, which include peoples such as the Slavey, Dogrib, Han and Tutchone but our language and way of life is distinct.

At the time of contact with Euro-Canadians, we lived in nine different bands with lands stretching from the interior of Alaska through the Yukon and into the Mackenzie Valley. In the Northwest Territories, we now live primarily in the communities of Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik and Inuvik and we number about 3500 people. We still maintain close cultural and family ties with our Gwich'in relatives in the Yukon and Alaska, and together we total over 6000 people in 15 communities.

Traditionally, our lands extended from the mountain headwaters of the Peel and Arctic Red Rivers in the south, to the Mackenzie Delta in the north, from the Anderson River in the east, to the Richardson Mountains in the west. Many families still maintain summer and winter camps outside our communities. Hunting, fishing and trapping remain important both culturally and economically, with caribou, moose and whitefish being staples of our diet.

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