Gwich’in local and traditional knowledge has been used to identify management issues, plan research and develop management plans. The long-term impacts on the northern environment will be monitored by using local knowledge. Gwich’in knowledge is used when developing wildlife management plans, protected area strategies and land and water use permitting. By recording Gwich’in traditional ecological knowledge, we are also helping to pass this knowledge on to the youth and future generations.

Gwich'in Environmental Knowledge Project (GEKP)

Goals and Results

During workshops, community members said they wanted their knowledge used to help manage their resources. In response, the GRRB has made the Gwich’in Environmental Knowledge Project (GEKP) an important part of its operation. Knowledge gathered by the project is used with other information and research results to manage and conserve the resources of the area.

The GEKP is recording and mapping Gwich’in Elders’ knowledge. The local knowledge collected is used to provide information about the area’s ecosystems and to produce more informed wildlife management plans, conservation strategies and land and water use licensing procedures. The GRRB is making Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge easily accessible to Board staff, community members and other researchers by developing a database of all recorded information and by publishing books on Gwich’in local ecological knowledge. The books and the database provide tools for educators in the area and other people interested in Traditional Knowledge.

GEKP Books

Nanh’ Kak Geenjit Gwich’in Ginjik and Gwìndòo Nanh’ Kak Geenjit Gwich’in Ginjik are books that highlight elders’ knowledge of species of wildlife in the western Arctic. The books are based on more than 400 interviews conducted with Gwich’in elders, hunters, fishers and trappers.

“This book helps us pass on the knowledge of many elders and their stories. . . It helps us to pass on our ‘words’, pass on a part of what is our culture, our future.” (Mary Kendi, Gwich’in Elder)

“WWF has been expanding the work we are doing in the Canadian Arctic and this report should prove to be an interesting and valuable resource for us. It looks like it will be a very special resource for many people and organizations.”(Catherine Merriman, World Wildlife Fund)

“The Elders who have contributed to this book have much to be proud of. Their words of wisdom and experience are important, not only to the youth, but to all who wish to keep our culture alive.” (Don Morin, former Premier, NWT)


Gwich'in Words About the Land Book CoverNành’ Kak Geenjit Gwich’in Ginjik (Gwich’in Words About the Land).
Gwich’in Elders.
8.5″ x 11″, paper cover, maps, illustrations (B&W), 212pp.
ISBN: 0-9682642.

Price: $30.00 + shipping & handling* Out of Stock

More Gwich'in Words About the Land Book CoverGwìndòo Nành’ Kak Geenjit Gwich’in Ginjik (More Gwich’in Words About the Land).
Gwich’in Elders.
8.5″ x 11″, paper cover, maps, photos (color), Elders biographies, 184pp.
ISBN: 0-9682642-1-2.

Price: $35.00 + shipping & handling*

*Book Shipping Costs Canada & USA: $7.50 per book International: $10.00 per book (please contact us for  shipping rates on multiple copies)

GEKP Database
To utilize the knowledge most effectively, the GRRB is developing a database to encourage researchers and resource managers in the Gwich’in Settlement Area (GSA) to use and explore the knowledge of elders. The database organizes, summarizes and presents Gwich’in traditional environmental knowledge in a user-friendly, easily accessible format.

Traditional Knowledge Policy

The Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge Policy, entitled Working with Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge in the Gwich’in Settlement Region, was drafted by the Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC) in preparation for increased oil and gas exploration and other development and research interests in the Region. It applies to the GTC, Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute (GSCI) and all Designated Gwich’in Organizations, including the four community councils, Gwich’in Land Corporation and Gwich’in Settlement Corporation.

This policy designates the GSCI as the organization responsible for its implementation and is accompanied by Guidelines and a Research Agreement Framework. The policy aims to ensure that the collection, use and dissemination of Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge is conducted ethically and acknowledges and respects the Gwich’in as its holders. Although still in draft form, it is meant to guide all traditional knowledge research in the Gwich’in Settlement Region (GSR). The Research Agreement Framework sets out the terms of any agreement negotiated between a Gwich’in organization and researchers, in accordance with the policy and guidelines.

Researchers interested in conducting Traditional Knowledge research in the GSR are asked to fill out the Research Agreement Framework section and submit it to the GSCI offices in Tsiigehtchic and Yellowknife.

Traditional Knowledge Projects

Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge: Bluenose West Caribou

The Gwich’in Knowledge of Bluenose West Caribou report is based on information provided in recent interviews, as well as information in the GSCI’s digital archives, including two Gwich’in Environmental Knowledge Project transcripts from the mid-1990s which were recently extracted from an old database by the GSCI.  The report was reviewed in community verification sessions.

Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge: Nèhtrùh (Wolverine)

The GSCI and GRRB conducted a study to gather and present Gwich’in traditional knowledge of wolverine. This study involved searching the digital archives of GSCI for relevant primary and secondary data and conducting 12 traditional knowledge interviews with Gwich’in hunters and Elders. Verification sessions were also conducted to review the final report.

There is a stable but low population of wolverine in the Gwich’in Settlement Area (GSA) and surrounding regions which are encountered by Gwich’in living in Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic. The Western population of wolverines includes the GSA. The species is classified as being of “Special Concern” by the Federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), as their population is sensitive to habitat fragmentation and encroachment of human activities, has a low reproductive rate and requires large tracts of secure habitat to maintain populations.

Gwich’in Knowledge of Grizzly Bears

The Gwich’in Social & Cultural Institute (GSCI) and GRRB conducted a study to gather and present Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge of grizzly bears. There is a now-stable population of grizzly bears in the Gwich’in Settlement Area (GSA) and surrounding regions which are encountered by Gwich’in living in Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic. The Canadian population is classified as Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), as their population is sensitive to development (such as mining and road-building) and cumulative impacts due to low reproductive rates and poor conditions in parts of their natural range. The study involved searching the digital archives of GSCI for relevant primary and secondary data and conducting 13 traditional knowledge interviews with Gwich’in hunters and Elders. Verification sessions were also conducted to review the final report.

Rat River Dolly Varden Char Traditional Knowledge Project (2010)

The Gwich’in Social & Cultural Institute (GSCI) conducted interviews and prepared a report on Rat River Dolly Varden char traditional knowledge to aid in the development of the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan.

Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge: Woodland Caribou, Boreal Caribou

The GRRB and the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute (GSCI) collaborated on a study to gather and report on Gwich’in Traditional Knowledge of Boreal Woodland Caribou.  There is a stable population of woodland caribou in the Gwich’in Settlement Area and surrounding regions.  However, the Canadian population is classified as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act.  Environment Canada supported the project in order to integrate Traditional Knowledge in the recovery planning process for boreal woodland caribou.

The GSCI and the GRRB conducted 20 interviews with holders of Gwich’in traditional knowledge and searched the digital archives of GSCI for relevant primary and secondary data to obtain traditional knowledge about general observations, special significance, physical description, distribution, habitat, population size and trend, limiting factors and threats, and health of the woodland caribou. Gwich’in hunters have in-depth knowledge about boreal woodland caribou, which they generously shared in the interviews.

All recorded interviews were transcribed for use in reporting.  Interviewees also recorded geographic information about caribou sightings and hunting areas on maps, which were digitized.  Study results and maps are presented in a detailed report.  The report was verified in workshops in Aklavik, Inuvik, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic and provided to Environment Canada.

Community-Land Relationship (CKP) Project

The Community – Land Relationship Project aims to ensure that traditional management guidelines are developed, included, and allowed to contribute to resource management in the Gwich’in Settlement Area. Community workshops are also held to discuss traditional and current management methods. Topics of discussions include (but are not limited to):

  • How the Gwich’in have traditionally managed wildlife, fishery and forestry resources
  • Procedures of incorporating traditional knowledge into environmental assessment
  • Recommendations on how traditional community management and monitoring can be incorporated into environmental assessments

Clarkson, P. and Andre, D. 2002. Communities, their Knowledge and Participation. Cumulative Effects Assessment Management Framework and Mackenzie Valley Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program. GRRB Report 02-03.

Community-Based Ecological Monitoring

The Board joins the effort of the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op to record, synthesize and communicate local knowledge about the environment. Each year, the Community-Based Ecological Monitoring Program hires local people to interview community members about their concerns and observations of fish, berries, caribou, unusual animal sightings, weather conditions and other aspects of the environment.

Local Knowledge of Fish & Habitats in the Travaillant Lake System

Local knowledge regarding fish and fish habitat was gathered to provide information about fish distribution, movement and habitat use and ecological characteristics, of lakes and streams in the Travaillant Lake (Khaki luk) system. In Phase I, all previously-recorded traditional knowledge was investigated. Phase II involved interviewing community members from Tsiigehtchic and Inuvik.

Winbourne, J. 2004. Local Knowledge of Fish Movements and Habitat Use in the Travaillant Lake System. GRRB Report 04-06.

Traditional Knowledge Interviews on Travaillant Lake Fish Movement

In 2002, the GRRB conducted a study on fish movement in Travaillant Lake. The study involved interviewing Gwich’in members from Tsiigehtchic and area. The goal of the study was to find out where fish were moving and if they traveled into the Mackenzie River.

VanGerwen-Toyne, M. 2002. Travaillant Lake Fish Movement Study: Traditional Knowledge Interviews. GRRB Report 02-02.

Rat River Biodiversity, Cultural and Historical Assessment

In 1999, the GRRB conducted a biodiversity and cultural assessment (traditional and historical use) of the Rat River watershed after the four Gwich’in communities of Fort McPherson, Aklavik, Tsiigehtchic and Inuvik identified it as a proposed protected area for its wildlife and cultural significance.

The Rat River watershed area has been used for centuries as an important harvesting area and travel route. Along with many cultural sites, numerous camps also exist along the lower Rat River. Fishing, hunting, trapping and berry picking are still carried out today. The study also identified the area as home to hundreds of species of plants, fish, mammals and birds.

Haszard, S. and Shaw, J. 2000. Rat River Biodiversity, Cultural and Historical Assessment. GRRB Report 00-01.

Gwich’in Ethno-botany Study

The Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute initiated an ethnobotany study to collect information on the use of plants for traditional medicine and other uses. The GRRB provided funding for the study and uses the information to build on the traditional knowledge that has been collected through other projects.

Traditional Knowledge of Fish Resources of Nagwichoonjik and Tsiigehnjik

In 2006-2007, the GRRB conducted a traditional knowledge study of the fish resources in the Mackenzie River (Nagwichoonjik) and the Arctic Red River (Tsiigehnjik). Interviews were conducted with knowledgeable past and present harvesters to record their knowledge. A community workshop was also held to verify the information.

Thompson, A. and Millar, N. 2007. Traditional knowledge of fish migration and spawning patterns in Tsiigehnjik (Arctic Red River) and Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River), Northwest Territories. Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board Report 07-01.