The Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement was signed in 1992. The Agreement covers approximately 56,935 square kilometers and includes the communities of Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Inuvik and Tsiigehtchic.
The Gwich’in Settlement Area has two mountain ranges: the Mackenzie Mountains and the Richardson Mountains. Much of the landscape is covered by boreal forest, arctic tundra and alpine tundra. The Mackenzie Delta is the largest delta in Canada (12, 170 km sq.). It drains an area of 1.75 million km sq., discharges 335 cubic km of water per year and carries 118 tonnes of suspended sediment.
The total population of the Gwich’in Settlement Area, including Gwich’in beneficiaries, Inuvialuit, Metis and non-aboriginals, is approximately 5,100. There are close to 2,440 Gwich’in beneficiaries, but only about 1,400 Gwich’in live in the land claim area.
For centuries, the Gwich’in have depended on the land for their survival. Today, the knowledge they have accumulated is used to manage the resources they control in the Gwich’in Settlement Area. People still depend heavily on the renewable resources of the area, such as caribou and fish, for maintaining their lifestyle and their ties with the land.
Each community has a council that deals with local renewable resource issues. The elected/appointed members represent their community at meetings to make decisions on renewable resource management and planning.
The renewable resources are managed through a co-management structure. The Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board is the main co-management body responsible for renewable resources. Caribou and moose are important to the Gwich’in as subsistence food sources. The ranges of both the Porcupine and Bluenose caribou herds overlap the settlement area. Moose are found throughout the region.
Fish are used throughout the settlement area. The main species used are Broad Whitefish, Dolly Varden Charr, Coney, Lake Whitefish, Lake Trout, Burbot (loche) and Northern Pike (jackfish). Forests of black and white spruce cover a large part of the Gwich’in Settlement Area. This ecosystem provides habitat for caribou, bears and fur-bearers. The largest trees are concentrated in the Mackenzie Delta and in the river and creek valleys.