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Northeastern Yukon and northwestern regions of the Northwest Territories

For the Gwich’in nation , fishing is of great significance to their livelihoods and culture.

“Fishing has been and continues to be a large part of the Gwich’in local economy [yet] fishing has been neglected in both popular and scientific accounts of Gwich’in practice… fishing [is] an important, but largely underestimated, part of the Canadian fur trade and explains how fish came to be used by traders and Gwich’in in a system of advances that benefited both parties. As a so-called secondary activity, fishing is entangled in Gwich’in history and their current way of life, and [it cannot] be easily separated from other land based activities.”

‘We ate lots of fish back then’: the forgotten importance of fishing in Gwich’in country (2014)Robert Wishart

Robert Wishart, University of Aberdeen.
Robert Wishart, University of Aberdeen.

The intersection of varying views of the land, wildlife management and the impacts it can have on communities, and the “cross-cultural implications of the experimentation with wildlife” among the Gwich’in is an area of research on which CICADA academic collaborator Robert Wishart has focused. Wishart has also studied the history of the muskoxen populations in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and has researched the oral history of Tetlit Gwich’in to document these populations in the area. In this research, Wishart explores the narrative of “wilderness” and the notion of “the wild” that is prevalent in non-indigenous perspectives:

“When Gwichin I have worked with tell stories about the land and the animals, and when they refer in these stories to something as being ‘wild’, they mean that the animals are not acting in ways which are normal or they mean that the animals are not giving themselves to hunters anymore…therefore, distancing one’s self from the land through an idea like wilderness is not considered to be beneficial at all.”

-A Story About a Muskox: Some Implications of Tetlit Gwich’in Human-Animal Relations (2004) – Robert Wishart


Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives