The Shútagot’ıne Cultural Landscape Project

The Shútagot’ıne Cultural Landscape Project

Principal Investigator: Glen MacKay (Government of Northwest Territories)

Opportunity: The mountains in Canada’s North are Indigenous cultural landscapes central to the identity and cultural vitality of Indigenous communities. Mountain landscapes are under increasing pressure from rapid environmental and socioeconomic change, and communities and cultural resource managers need innovative tools to conserve cultural places and traditional knowledge of mountain environments.

Objectives: The Shútagot’ıne Cultural Landscape Project (SCLP) will promote the conservation of cultural values in the Shútagot’ıne (Mountain Dene) homeland through the restoration of Indigenous geographic place names and archaeological research on cultural places at risk of impact from climate change. Lessons learned from this work will improve best practices for the efficient preservation of cultural values at risk.

Plan: This project builds on over twelve years of collaborative archaeological and traditional knowledge research in the central Mackenzie Mountains. The components of this proposal reflect current research priorities that have emerged from this work. We will compile the available place names information for the Tulita District of the Sahtu Settlement Area in a digital database, which will facilitate the identification of gaps in the information needed for the approval process, and reveal inconsistencies in the spelling and translations of names that appear in multiple datasets. We will also generate spatial data for each name, including draft delineations of each geographic feature. Our archaeological and traditional knowledge research will complement our place names research through investigations of several named hunting places on Begádeé (Keele River) in the central area of the Shútagot’ıne cultural landscape. We will also develop a fuller picture of Shútagot’ıne land use in this area through investigations of wooden game drive fences and ice patches – specialized hunting sites of high cultural significance that are at risk of impact from climate change. Building on a recent pilot project, we will refine a multidisciplinary approach to characterize fence features, which includes dendrochronological analysis, rapid high-resolution mapping and aerial photography using unmanned aerial systems, and documentation of associated archaeological sites and traditional knowledge. Alpine ice patches are repositories of well-preserved archaeological artifacts and biological specimens but are melting rapidly as air temperatures warm. We will monitor two previously identified ice patches and collect fragile artifacts for conservation.

Key Outcomes & Impact: The outcome of this research will be a definitive list of Shútagot’ıne place names that contains all of the information needed for the official approval process, and final maps and spatial data for the geographic delineations of each name. This list and associated maps will be provided back to the community of Tulita to form the basis of their geographic names proposal. The initiative will promote the conservation of important Shútagot’ıne cultural places and enrich our understanding of Shútagot’ıne land and resource use through time.

February 2020 Presentation: The Shútagot’ıne Cultural Landscape Project

Other Team Members:
Leon Andrew (Tulita Dene Band)
Colin Laroque (University of Saskatchewan)
Jackson McDermott (Government of Northwest Territories)
Julie Buysse (Government of Northwest Territories)
Jurjen van der Sluijs (Government of Northwest Territories)
Naomi Smethurst (Government of Northwest Territories)