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HISTORY : GWICHIN

Gwich'in is the self-designation of Athapaskan speaking Aboriginals living in far northwestern Canada, including the lower Mackenzie River, northern Yukon and adjacent regions of interior Alaska. The Gwich'in are one of the most northerly Aboriginal peoples on the North American continent. The Gwich'in are part of a larger family of Aboriginal people known as Athapaskans.

At the time of contact with Euro-Canadians, the Gwich'in 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, Gwich'in live primarily in the communities of Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik and Inuvik and number approximately 2,500 people. Traditionally, Gwich'in 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 Gwich'in communities. Hunting, fishing and trapping remain important both culturally and economically, with caribou, moose and whitefish being staples of their diet.

Many Gwich'in speak their indigenous Gwich'in language, which is in the Athabaskan language family. There are two main dialects of Gwich'in; eastern and western, which are divided roughly at the United States and Canadian border. Each Gwich'in village has unique dialects, idioms, and expressions.

Today, there are many different bands or tribes of Gwich'in including, but not limited to: Denduu, Draanjik, Shoo Draanjik, Di'haii, Gwichyaa, K'iitl'it, Neetsaii, Teetl'it, Teetsii, Tanan, Han, and Vuntut.

Primary source: "The Gwich'in". 2003. Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute: http://www.gwichin.ca/TheGwichin/Gwichin.html