Ehdiitat Gwich’in Cultural Landscape
Statement of Significance
The Chigwaazraii, Sreih Nitsìk, Ddhah Zhìt Han and Eneekaii Han – Ehdiitat Gwich’in Cultural Landscape has been continuously used over time by the Ehdiitat Gwich’in of the Mackenzie Delta. The Landscape is located to the southwest of Aklavik and encompasses a portion of the Richardson Mountains with its sparse trees and imposing peaks and valleys. The landscape continues south to the Rat River and east to the Husky Channel. The Husky Channel connects the landscape to the Mackenzie Delta where there are numerous waterways and some spruce forest and muskeg. Many of the features of this vast landscape retain cultural meanings. The cultural landscape overlaps partially with the Rat, Huskey, Black Mountain Conservation Zone identified in the Gwich’in Land Use Plan.
The Ehdiitat Gwich’in Cultural Landscape was designated as a NWT Historic Site because the relationship between the area and the Gwich’in is historic and continuing. It demonstrates a long association and intimate knowledge of the area through Elders’ stories and legends, and traditional Gwich’in place names. The landscape brings together oral history, tangible and intangible cultural resources, and knowledge.
The region is intertwined by trails and filled with a diversity of plant and wildlife resources that continue to be harvested by the Gwich’in today. The landscape is culturally bound to the Gwich’in through their stories, legends and on-going use of traditional place names within the landscape. The knowledge of the land and its corresponding heritage value will be passed on generation to generation by the use of the landscape. Gwich’in used their knowledge to guide miners on their way to the Klondike along the Rat River, to Destruction City and over the mountains into the Yukon Territory.
Key factors that contribute to the heritage value of the Ehdiitat Gwich’in cultural landscape include:
- Location of seasonal traditional economic activities and practices (including traditional hunting, trapping, fishing, plant harvesting and use of camping sites, portages and trails) that combine to see the cultural landscape used year-round.
- A rich biodiversity evident in the natural landforms, flora and fauna.
- A diverse physiography ranging from the flat, lake-dotted landscape of the delta to the majestic, alpine one of the Richardson Mountains.
- Contains numerous places where specific Gwich’in stories are ‘resident’
- Evidence of a long association with human activity that is marked by numerous graves
- Provides a tangible link to Gwich’in oral tradition, place names, and traditional practices which define the landscape
- Cultural landscapes are always evolving, witnessed by how Gwich’in knowledge of trails helped Klondikers to the Dawson goldfields by way of the Rat River.
- Assessment Report: Chigwaazraii, Sreih Nitìk, Ddhah Zhìt Han and Eneekaii Han – Ehdiitat Gwich’in Cultural Landscape.Report on file, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.
- Gwich’in Land Use Planning Board, (2003) Nành’ Geenjit Gwitr’it Tigwaa’in/Working for the Land: Gwich’in Land Use Plan. http://polar.nwtresearch.com/. Accessed 2 March 2010.
- Gwich’in Social & Cultural Institute (2009) Chigwaazraii, Sreih Nitsìk, Ddhah Zhìt Han and Eneekaii Han – Ehdiitat Gwich’in Cultural Landscape. Fort McPherson: Gwich’in Social & Cultural Institute.