Gwich’in, also called Kutchin, a group of Athabaskan-speaking North American Indian tribes inhabiting the basins of the Yukon and Peel rivers in eastern Alaska and Yukon—a land of coniferous forests interspersed with open, barren ground.
We are one of the most northerly Indigenous peoples on the North American continent, living at the northwestern limits of the boreal forest. Only the Inuit live further north.
The Gwichʼin (or Kutchin) are an Athabaskan-speaking First Nations people of Canada and an Alaska Native people. They live in the northwestern part of North America, mostly above the Arctic Circle. Gwichʼin are well-known for their crafting of snowshoes, birchbark canoes, and the two-way sled.
Gwich’in (Kutchin) is the Athabascan language spoken in the northeastern Alaska villages of Arctic Village, Venetie, Fort Yukon, Chalkyitsik, Circle, and Birch Creek, as well as in a wide adjacent area of the Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory.
In total, their population is around 7,000 to 9,000 people. Conventional belief states that the Gwich’in have lived in the area “for as long as 200,000 years,” though Gwich’in oral tradition suggests that they have been there “since time immemorial” (Gwich’in Council International).
Gwich’in, also called Kutchin, a group of Athabaskan-speaking North American Indian tribes inhabiting the basins of the Yukon and Peel rivers in eastern Alaska and Yukon —a land of coniferous forests interspersed with open, barren ground.
‘” Pro-drilling Alaskans often point out that Arctic Village and the area set aside for oil exploration are separated by about 100 miles, and a mountain range. The Gwich’in say their link to the place is the caribou, because the Porcupine herd gives birth in same part of the refuge where drilling is now legal.
Indigenous Peoples are distinct social and cultural groups that share collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources where they live, occupy or from which they have been displaced. There are between 370 and 500 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide, in over 90 countries.
Many Inuit live in 53 communities across the northern regions of Canada, mostly along the Arctic coast, in Inuit Nunangat, which means “the place where Inuit live.” Inuit Nunangat consists of four regions: the Northwest Territories and Yukon (Inuvialuit), Nunavut, Northern Quebec (Nunavik), and the northeastern coast
The traditional diet is based on large animals, primarily caribou and moose, although Dall sheep and bear were also eaten in the past. Small mammals include rabbit, beaver, muskrat, squirrel, porcupine, etc. Fish are important with whitefish, char, trout, loche, and inconnu being most dominant in the traditional diet.
Language. The Dinjii Zhu’ Ginjik (Gwich’in language) is one of the most endangered Indigenous languages in Canada. It is the most endangered Athapaskan (Dene) language in the NWT.
The Gwich’in practiced a nomadic lifestyle until the 1870’s, when fur traders came into the area to establish forts and trading posts that later became settlements. Many families still maintain summer and winter camps outside our communities.
The Porcupine Caribou Herd ranges across the northern Yukon, northeastern Alaska and the northwestern fringe of the Northwest Territories. For thousands of years, the herd has been a source of food, clothing, tools and shelter for the Gwitchin and Inuvialuit peoples who inhabit this region.
Gwich’in men and women wore very similar clothing: a caribou-skin tunic and trousers with moccasins attached. In cold weather they wore mittens and fur parkas with hoods. All of these clothing articles were frequently decorated with colorful porcupine quills or beadwork in floral patterns.
The Tlingit people, whose name means “People of the Tides”, have a vast history; many speculate its origins dating as early as 11,000 years ago. Two major theories exist as to where the Tlingit people originate from, the largest being a coastal migration across the Bering Strait land mass from north Asia.
There are Athabaskan people in northern California and southern Oregon. The Navajo and Apache people of the southwest speak Athabaskan languages, too. Map 1 shows the distribution of Athabaskans in North America; Map 2 shows the territories of the eleven Athabaskan languages spoken in Alaska.