Fort McPherson

67°26'N, 134°53'W

Fort McPherson is a Gwich'in community on the east bank of the Peel River, connected to Dawson and Inuvik by the Dempster Highway. This community of 800 people is the home of the Teetł’it Gwich'in ("people of the head waters or people in the middle"). The traditional name for the community is Teetł’it zheh, named after the Gwich'in name for the Peel River, Teetł’it njik.

The community has a long recorded history, dating back to 1840 when a trading post was established by the Hudson's Bay Company to purchase furs from the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit. In 1848, the post was relocated 6 km downriver to it's present location and named for the chief trader of the Hudson's Bay Company, Murdoch McPherson. In 1860, the Roman Catholic and the Anglican missions arrived.

By 1903, Rev. Edward Sittichinli was ordained the first Gwich'in minister. Fort McPherson played a role in the Yukon Gold Rush in 1899. Close to one hundred prospectors traveled the Mackenzie route to McPherson, then headed across the continental divide to Dawson. This route followed an old traditional Teetl'it Gwich'in trail to winter hunting grounds in what is now the Yukon. It was also the route taken by the RCMP Lost Patrol, whose members died in the Peel watershed in the winter of 1911.The world outbreak of Spanish influenza in 1918-1919 was brought north by the sternwheelers traveling the Mackenzie River, and decimated Fort McPherson and other Gwich'in communities.

Several notable Gwich'in and Metis leaders have called Fort McPherson home: John Tetlichi, the first aboriginal member of the NWT Territorial Council; Wally Firth, the first northern aboriginal Member of Parliament; and Richard Nerysoo, the first elected NWT government leader of aboriginal descent.