“The story is in the landscape. The only way to really know the story is to go to the land.”
Dr. John B. Zoe, Tłįchǫ Elder
Prior to 12,000 B.C., much of the Northwest Territories was frozen under a large sheet of ice, a mile or more deep. The glaciers receded from west to east, opening the landscape to human settlement.
The first here were the Dene, who roamed the boreal forest since time immemorial. About one thousand years ago, the Inuvialuit arrived on the Mackenzie Delta on the Arctic coast and islands. Fewer than 300 years ago, the Métis arrived with the vanguard of the fur trade. Settlement by Euro-Canadians stretches back barely a century – first Hudson Bay employees and missionaries, then whalers and RCMP, then oil-drillers, miners, and the government.
From exquisite moose or caribou hide moccasins in every community to beading patterns differing by region. Some communities are famous for their tufting, others for fish scale art. Drumming and dancing is another constant with regional variations. The Yellowknives Dene Drummers sport intricately beaded vests made from tanned moose or caribou hide while in the Western Arctic, the Inuvialuit Drummers and Dancers wear fur-trimmed parkas.
This is a multilingual territory boasting 11 official languages: Chipewyan, Cree, Tłįchǫ, Gwich'in, North Slavey, South Slavey, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, Inuinnaqtun – and, of course, English and French. The territory has also welcomed immigrants from around the world, meaning other languages – from German to Tagalog – are spoken here. Almost everyone here speaks English, but nearly half of us speak a second (or third, or fourth) language.
This region is representative of the Inuit and the Inuvialuit, the Gwich’in, the Sahtu Dene and Metis, the Dehcho people, the Tłįchǫ and the Akaitcho people.
Video and copyright: Tlicho Government.
For more information, check out the Tlicho Government website.
For more information about tourism in the NWT, check out the Spectacular NWT website.