Teetshik Goghaa Territorial Historic Site
Statement of Significance
Teetshik Goghaa, also known as Old Arctic Red, is located eleven kilometers downstream from modern day Tsiigehtchic on the east bank of the Mackenzie River and encompasses about three square kilometers. It is the site of one of the first Roman Catholic Missions in the vicinity. In pre-contact times it was a traditional summer fishing and gathering place for the Gwichya Gwich’in. The Gwich’in name Teetshik Goghaa, translates as “a bundle of creeks”, referring to the several creeks that come together here and flow into the river. The most visible human features of the area today are the remains of an old stone fire place and several wooden grave markers. It is a recorded archeological site and overlaps partially with Gwich’in Heritage Conservation Zone H09.
The heritage value of Teetshik Goghaa is in its historical and cultural associations. Long before European contact this was a spot where people congregated. The fishing was good and there were lots of berries. “That’s where the old peoples were staying, hundred years ago… just live there and fish. …Winter they go back in the lakes” (GSCI 2009). After a long winter people would gather here in the summer to fish and visit with friends and families that they had not seen for many months. There would be dances, games, and other festivities that would often go on for several days. In the 1860’s catholic missionaries began annual visits to the Gwichya Gwich’in territory. In 1869 a mission was built at the mouth of the Arctic Red River. Over the next two decades, the mission building was plagued with wind and flooding problems. The decision was made to move the church downstream in the 1880’s to Teetshik Goghaa, a site already in use by the local people. The buildings were constructed on a high hill at the mouth of several creeks and the Gwich’in stayed in tents on the hills flanking the mission. The remains of the large stone fire place and the remnants of at least two other foundations attest to the intention of permanence; however this spot was abandoned before long. A mission building was later constructed around the turn of the century on the hill at the mouth of the Arctic Red River, where the current church now stands. The archaeological remains of the mission at Teetshik Goghaa present an intriguing snapshot in time of a missionary community in the Canadian subarctic.
- An important pre-contact summer fishing and gathering place.
- The site of an early catholic mission chosen because of its use by the Gwichya Gwich’in.
- Represents an era of spiritual change for the Gwich’in when missionaries of different faiths were promoting a new belief system and having a significant impact on the lives of indigenous people.
- Location of historic period graves, a large wooden cross, culturally modified trees, and a pre-contact archaeological site.
- A tangible link to Gwich’in oral tradition, place names and traditional practices that helps define the site and its associations.
- Gwich’in Land Use Planning Board, (2003) Nanh Geejiy Gwitr’it T’igwaa’in/Working for the Land: Gwich’in Land Use Plan. http://polar.nwtresearch.com/. Accessed 2 March 2010.
- Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute. 2009. Teetshik Goghaa (Old Arctic Red). Nomination Document prepared for the NWT Historic Places Initiative by GSCI, report on file NWT Cultural Places Program, PWNHC, Yellowknife.