About the Archive

In 1974, the federal government appointed Justice Thomas R. Berger of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to hold hearings into a proposed natural gas pipeline down the Mackenzie Valley. At the same time, the Dene and the Inuvialuit were asserting their claims to their traditional lands. The Berger Inquiry broke with tradition by hearing evidence offered not only by the pipeline companies, but also by residents in more than 30 small communities in the NWT. It concluded by delaying any construction on the pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley and was seen as a watershed moment in Aboriginal-Canadian relations. In amassing over 40,000 pages of documentation, it also provided a unique and comprehensive window into the Dene and Inuvialuit political resurgence of the 1970s.

This special archive contains original photographs from the Dehcho community hearings, testimonies and audio interviews with Inquiry participants, a collection of newspaper clippings from the period, full transcripts and the final report, and the The Inquiry Film that chronicled the final months of the Inquiry. The film features interviews with many key figures, as well as footage from the community hearings at Rae (Behchokǫ̀) and Colville Lake. Produced by Arthur Pape and directed by Jesse Nishihata, the film won the Canadian Film Festival Award for Best Documentary over 90 Minutes in 1977. It was donated to the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre by Michael Jackson, Special Counsel for the Berger Inquiry.

In 2011 and 2012, Drew Ann Wake, who as a young CBC reporter covered the original inquiry, and photographer Linda MacCannell, travelled to the same communities visited by Berger and compiled the River Journey online exhibit. The exhibit brings together voices of the original participants and a new generation of youth who reflect on the legacy of the Inquiry.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Inquiry, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre hosted Thunder in our Voices, a retrospective exhibition by Drew Ann Wake. Thomas Berger likewise returned to Yellowknife to meet with old friends and deliver a talk which was recorded and is presented below:

More information can be found at the wiki for the University of British Columbia’s 2012 hands-on history exhibition. Additional audio and video clips can also be found in the CBC Digital Archives.

Supported by:

Supporting Organizations