This canyon is one of the most significant places along the Peel River and there are many stories attached to it because of its danger and beauty. It is one of two canyons along the Peel River – the lower of the two – and the only one that is passable by boat. Its passage, however, requires a skilled boatsman. One who knows how to read the water, can avoid eddies and is comfortable with fast flowing water. The trip through the canyon today is a memorable trip. People consider it treacherous and treat it with great caution and respect.
This Gwich’in place name is associated with a legendary story. During the early days of the land, a giant hairy worm (snake) came out of the ocean, travelled up the Mackenzie River and into the Peel River. Because of its desire to go into the mountains, it swallowed large boulders as it travelled and created the Snake River. The snake is believed to have either gone inside a lake beside the river or into the mountain near the headwaters of the river, where it remains to this day.
The Gwich’in had many trails throughout their lands. One of the oldest and most important traditional trails for the Teetł'it Gwich’in was Trail River which led to Caribou Mountain, and the Hungry Lake area where people hunted and trapped in the winter and to Dawson and Mayo. According to Teetł'it Gwich’in elders Walter and Robert Alexie who grew up in this area, people used to live at the mouth of Trail River and set their nets in a big eddy that is no longer here. Now it’s very shallow at the river mouth.
Just upstream from here, on the left bank of the Peel River is the location of one of two monuments to the Royal North West Mounted Police “Lost Patrol.” The two monuments commemorate the places where the bodies of the four RNWMP men were found who became lost and perished during their patrol between Fort McPherson and Dawson City in 1911. This monument marks the location of the bodies of Constables Kinney and Taylor, found by Special Constable Charlie Stewart, Sarah Simon’s father. The monument is built of logs stacked horizontally in the shape of a pyramid and painted white.
This name refers to a rock formation that sits on top of a hill overlooking the Peel River, upriver from Fort McPherson. It is one of the most sacred places in the Teetl’it Gwich’in traditional land use area and people show their respect by being quiet and not disturbing anything. As Mrs. Sarah Simon said, “People always look…after that place. They don’t want anything to happen to that place.” The legend associated with this place explains that a young girl broke the rules of her puberty training and caused her three brothers and their dog to turn into stone pillars.
This name refers to an area which includes a small community of fish camps 8 miles from Fort McPherson and a stream upriver from there, which for many centuries was one of the favourite fishing places of the Teetl’it Gwich’in. It was also a well-known site for battles between the Gwich’in and the Inuvialuit. Today, this is where the ferry takes people across the Peel River as they travel on the Dempster Highway.
This place name refers to an old village site that came into existence in the early 20th C. when muskrat trapping became a lucrative activity. At one point, more than forty families lived in the village for part of the year and fished, trapped and hunted for moose in the area. Although there are still many log cabins, warehouses, and smoke houses still standing, Neil Colin whose father and grandfather lived there before him, is the only person who still lives here for part of the year.
The Gwich’in name refers to the head of a summer trail up the Rat River which leads into the mountains where people hunted caribou and moose. It was the farthest point that people could travel by canoe (and later by scow) because of the shallowness of the river. From here, people had to leave their canoes and walk overland into the mountains. In 1898, miners on their way to the Yukon Gold Rush were forced to over winter here, and they built a small “city” of log cabins.