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About the Gwich'in Social & Cultural Institute (GSCI)


Sharon Snowshoe, a Teetĺ'it Gwich’in beneficiary from Fort McPherson, has been employed as the GSCI Executive Director since August 2005. Sharon is responsible for the overall administration and financial management of the GSCI. Prior to her work with the GSCI, Sharon worked as a Band Manager for the Teetĺ'it Gwich’in Council for five years. During this time she assisted GSCI on several projects including the nomination and designation of two National Historic Sites and two NWT Territorial Historic Sites in the Gwich’in Settlement Region on behalf of the Teetĺ'it Gwich’in Council. In 2003, Sharon, representing the Teetĺ'it Gwich’in, participated in the Wind River trip, a 10-day river trip co-sponsored by GSCI. Formerly, Sharon was the Gwich’in Enrolment Coordinator for the Gwich’in Enrolment Board for five years. She played a key role in genealogical research in Fort McPherson that resulted in the publication of Jijuu: Who are my grandparents? Where are they from? Sharon has a college certificate in Secretarial Arts from NAIT in Edmonton, Alberta and is working towards a Business Administration certificate from Yukon College in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Ingrid Kritsch, was the founding Executive Director of GSCI and since 1998 has been the Research Director. Ingrid is responsible for all research that GSCI undertakes in the area of heritage and culture. Although much of her work takes place behind a desk, her favorite part is working with elders, recording their stories and learning about Gwich’in culture and history while travelling in the Gwich’in Settlement Region. Ingrid has worked in the Canadian Subarctic as a cultural anthropologist and archaeologist since 1977. Her interest in archaeology and other cultures has also taken her outside of Canada to work on excavations in the Netherlands and the Middle East. In 2000, Ingrid was awarded a Wise Woman Award by the NWT Status of Women Council for her many years of heritage work and advocacy in the North. Since 2005, she has served as the Northwest Territories representative on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Ingrid was named an honorary Gwich’in at the annual Gwich’in Assembly that took place in Fort McPherson in August 2008. Her education includes a B.A. (1978) in Anthropology and Geography from McGill University, an M.A. in Anthropology from McMaster University (1983), and course work and preliminary research towards a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta.

Alestine Andre, a Gwichya Gwich'in beneficiary from Tsiigehtchic, has been with the GSCI since June 1994. Since that time Alestine has worked as a Cultural Director, Executive Director, and is currently the Heritage Researcher. Alestine has a college diploma (1987) in Public Administration from Camosun College, a Bachelor of Arts degree (1994) in Anthropology and Women's Studies from the University of Victoria, and a Master’s degree (2006) in Ethnobotany from the University of Victoria. Her master’s thesis was based on the traditional plant knowledge of Gwich’in plant specialist, Mrs. Ruth Welsh and her work with the GSCI and Aurora Research Institute (with Alan Fehr) which resulted in the book Gwich’in Ethnobotany: Plants Used by the Gwich’in for Food, Medicine, Shelter and Tools by Alestine Andre and Alan Fehr (2002). In 2005, Ms. Andre was awarded a Gwich’in Achievement Award by the Gwich’in Tribal Council in the career category of Gwich’in Culture. In March 2007, Ms. Andre was awarded a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the category Culture, Heritage and Spirituality at a ceremony in Edmonton. In her lifetime Alestine has travelled to many countries around the world. Today Alestine returns every August to her family's fish camp at Diighe'tr'aajil along the Mackenzie River.

William George Firth, a Teetĺ'it Gwich’in beneficiary from Fort McPherson, is a Gwich’in language specialist who has worked in the Gwich’in language field for almost 25 years. He has been the Language Manager of the GSCI Gwich’in Language Office since 2000. As the Language Manager, William is responsible for carrying out language research and language revitalization projects in accordance with the GSCI Five Year Plan as well as the goals of the Gwich’in Language Centre which is under the wing of the GSCI. William George has a Native Language Instructor Diploma from Yukon College, Whitehorse, Yukon (2003) and an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Native Language Education from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2007. Prior to working for GSCI, William worked as an interpreter/translator, and native language announcer/broadcaster. On his own initiative, William learned Gwich'in from his grandmother and has since worked tirelessly on projects to revitalize his language. He has learned most of what he knows from prominent elders within many of the Gwich’in communities along with his two grandmothers. William’s language interests include the documentation of the Gwich’in language resulting in three Gwich’in Language Dictionaries, teaching the Gwich’in language using the Gwich’in standardized writing system, developing Gwich’in language material for Gwich’in language teachers in the Gwich’in Settlement Area and translating the many Gwich’in stories stored at the Gwich’in Language Centre. William recently assisted with the development and piloting of a Second Language Curricula for the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit Language Instructors (2004-2008) in the Beaufort-Delta area.

Margaret Thompson, a Teetĺ'it beneficiary from Fort McPherson, is the daughter of Jimmy and Christy Thompson. Margaret attended elementary and high school in Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Inuvik and Yellowknife. She also attended Aurora College and Yukon College. She was part of the Gwich’in Language and Cultural Project piloted in 1987-89 by Dr. Joan Ryan (Arctic Institute of North America/University of Calgary) in partnership with the Teetĺ'it Gwich’in Council and the GNWT Department of Education along with four other people from Fort McPherson. This is where she was taught to write and read Gwich’in by William G. Firth. Margaret attended the University of Fairbanks for a short Gwich’in class and has attended various language workshops in Inuvik. Margaret has worked for the Teetĺ'it Gwich’in Council and Gwich’in Tribal Council and various other organizations in a variety of positions. Margaret presently works at the Language Centre in Fort McPherson as a Resource Assistant Trainee on the development of children’s books where Gwich’in needs to be inserted into documents. She also assists with the 2nd language curriculum, produces translations for projects within the Language Centre and for other agencies, and attends workshops and training sessions in order to build on her technological and language skills. Margaret is a great asset to the Language Centre.

Research Associates

Walter Alexie is the son of Abraham and Bella (Martin) Alexie and was born in the Yukon in the upper Blackstone River area in 1931. In his earlier years, Walter lived on the land in the Trail River area where he still maintains a camp today, returning to hunt, trap and enjoy bush life throughout the year. In 1960, Walter and his family moved to Fort McPherson so his children could get an education. He worked for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation for 31 years, initially looking after the power plant and then as plant superintendent. Walter and his wife Enna had 7 children. Walter was one of our earliest and longest serving GSCI board members (1997-2007). Due to his encyclopedic knowledge of the land and culture, Walter has been an integral part of many GSCI oral history and ethno-archaeology projects. We have learned a tremendous amount from Walter over the years and always know we are in good hands when travelling with him on the land. Walter says keeping his culture and language alive is important as is hunting and living on the land. He feels that it is important for young people to be well educated, both academically and culturally. We call upon Walter’s knowledge and expertise often, and feel fortunate that he is always willing to share his knowledge about the land, Gwich’in culture and history. We look forward to working with Walter for many years.

Bertha Francis is the daughter of John Charlie and Bella (Robert) Charlie and was born in the Yukon above Eagle Plains in 1940. Bertha was one of the founding board members of the GSCI and served on the board until 2001. From 1997-2005, Bertha worked as an Interpreter/Translator for the Gwich’in Language Centre when it was originally run by the GNWT and in later years by GSCI. Her responsibilities included translating and transcribing audio-cassettes, developing education materials for the schools and language materials for adults (her Gwich’in can be heard on many cassettes, CDs and on our website), and translating at meetings. She also assisted with many of our heritage research projects, participated in meetings on the preservation and standardization of the Gwich’in language, and provided input into the content of the Gwich’in Dictionary from its' inception. Bertha always made herself available and provided strong support and advice to GSCI staff when needed. Bertha’s career as an Interpreter/Translator however started earlier in 1990 where she played an important role in interpreting and translating for the Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC) during the negotiations of the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. Her work during this time, helped many people, particularly elders, understand the issues and provided them with a voice to provide advice to the younger people negotiating on their behalf. Once the Claim was signed, Bertha continued to provide information to the Gwich’in in our Gwich'in language through interpreting at meetings, providing information over CBQM and CBC radios, and talking to individuals. Bertha also provided interpreting and translating services to government departments and industry. She always did her best to accommodate anyone who asked for her assistance in translating or interpreting. Whenever there is a voice needed to be heard regarding any aspect of language or culture for the Gwich'in, you are sure to hear from Bertha. Even though Bertha retired in 2005, we are fortunate to be able to call upon her to work with us when needed.

Kristi Benson worked with the GSCI from 2004 - 2006 as the TK Coordinator/Researcher for the Mackenzie Gas Project Traditional Knowledge Study. Since then, Kristi has continued her affiliation with GSCI under contract working on a variety of oral history, archaeology, traditional knowledge, and other heritage projects in the Gwich’in Settlement Area. She is also responsible for maintaining and providing staff with information from the GSCI GIS, and assisting with the review of land use permit and research licence applications. Kristi has worked as an archaeologist in British Columbia, Alberta and Tabasco, Mexico. She has conducted ethnographic research in British Columbia and Mexico, and has taught Anthropology and First Nations Studies classes at Malaspina University-College and Aurora College. She has also worked integrating traditional knowledge into the environmental impact assessment process and various land and marine-use planning projects in the NWT and BC. Kristi received her BA and MA in archaeology from the University of Calgary and has technical training in Geographical Information Systems from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Michael Heine teaches sport sociology and social theory in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario. His applied research focuses on the documentation of physical activity practices and traditional games of Arctic and sub-Arctic Aboriginal cultures. Over the past almost 15 years, he has collaborated in several cultural-historical research projects undertaken by the GSCI. Michael holds degrees from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany), and the Universities of Western Ontario and Alberta.



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