Life Histories of Elders

In the 1996-2001 Five Year Plan, Into the Next Millennium, we identified the need to document the life histories of Gwich'in Elders. This research was conducted during the summers of 2000 and 2001.

Twenty-four elders from the four Gwich'in communities were interviewed, with the oldest elders interviewed first. Consequently, many of the elder’s life histories describe a very traditional lifestyle of moving seasonally on the land, being the last generation to live in this traditional manner. Their stories are eloquent in their love and knowledge of the land, but they also are interesting historically speaking in that they contain snapshots of the sweeping changes affecting the Gwich'in in the 20th century. Their stories also speak to the importance of family ties, place names, legends and historical events.

In order to pay tribute to these and other elders we have worked with over the years, we have produced five calendars with summaries of their life histories (2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2014). Longer narratives of each Elders life story have also been written and will be available in book form in the near future.

Our Elders play a crucial role as teachers. They are the source of traditional knowledge, history, language and culture. Our family history is important to our identity as Gwich'in.