Proposed Mackenzie Highway – Gwich’in District

Gabriella Prager (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2010-016)

In June, 2010, a team of environmental specialists from Nehtruh-EBA Consulting Ltd. that included an archaeologist (Gabriella Prager of Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd.) completed an overview assessment of a corridor for a 175km long section of proposed all season highway. This extends from the Dempster Highway south of Inuvik through the Gwich’in Settlement Area.

The goals of the archaeological overview assessment of the proposed road route, several alternatives, and selected borrow sources were:

  1. To assess terrain within the project area in order to rate archaeological potential; and,
  2. To determine if any previously recorded sites are located in the immediate vicinity of the projected developments.

The proposed alignment was identified by GPS coordinates and plotted on topographic maps. Terrain potential for archaeological resources was rated by visual assessment from low and slow helicopter overflights of the route options. Some of the possible gravel sources were also overflown, with the boundaries roughly approximated using topographic features. Coordinates of previously recorded sites were compared to the locations of the alignment and borrow sources. Segments of the road routes and borrow sources were rated as low, moderate or high archaeological potential, and the ratings were recorded on the topographic maps.

Fifteen previously recorded archaeological sites were found to occur in close proximity to the proposed road corridor. These include lithic scatters, cabins and historic trails. The Thunder River and Travaillant River were clearly focal drainage systems for past inhabitants. Furthermore, the vicinities of Travaillant Lake and Woodbridge Lake provided important resources for traditional use. Once the route for the proposed highway is firmly established, intensive ground surveys are likely to find more sites.

The data gathered during this overview assessment study will be used to determine the specific portions of project developments that will require detailed reconnaissance (that is, those rated moderate and high archaeological potential) during the next phase of study and to identify where small realignment of routing or relocation of project component boundaries may serve to avoid archaeological sites.

(Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre)