About the Gwich’in
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. We are part of a larger family of Indigenous people known as Athapaskans, which include peoples such as the Slavey, Dogrib, Han and Tutchone but our language and way of life is distinct.
At the time of contact with Euro-Canadians, we 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, we now live primarily in the communities of Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik and Inuvik and we number about 3440 people. We still maintain close cultural and family ties with our Gwich'in relatives in the Yukon and Alaska, and together we total over 6000 people in 15 communities.
Traditionally, our 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 our communities. Hunting, fishing and trapping remain important both culturally and economically, with caribou, moose and whitefish being staples of our diet.
Gwich'in groups at the time of contact
Adapted from article by Richard Slobodin on the "Kutchin" published in the Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 6. Sub-Arctic. June Helm (ed). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1981.
The Gwich'in Communities
As well as these main communities, Gwich’in live in other parts of the territory or state.
(total population, including non-Gwich’in, from the 2011 Census)
Old Crow - population 245
First Indigenous group in the Yukon to finish negotiations for land claims and self-government agreements; legislation came into effect in
(total population, including non-Gwich’in, from the GNWT 2014 population projection)
Inuvik - population 3,396
Fort McPherson - population 792
Aklavik - population 691
Tsiigehtchic - population 160
The Gwich’in of the Northwest Territories signed a comprehensive land claim agreement in 1992.
(total population, from 2010 US Government figures)
Fort Yukon - population 583
Venetie - population 166
Beaver - population 84
Arctic Village - population 152
Chalkyitsik - population 69
Stevens Village - population 78
Circle - population 104
Birch Creek - population 33
Canyon Village (not available)
Christian (not available)
The Gwich’in are part of the comprehensive Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act, enacted in 1971. The residents of Arctic Village and Venetie opted to receive title to their pre-existing reservation instead.
Map and non-census information courtesy Up Here Magazine.