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Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) National Historic Site of Canada

Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories, X0E, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1997/06/05

General view of a section of Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) National Historic Site of Canada; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
General view
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Other Name(s)

Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) National Historic Site of Canada
Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River)
Nagwichoonjik (le fleuve Mackenzie)
Mackenzie River
Fleuve Mackenzie

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/03/20

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) National Historic Site of Canada is the cultural landscape along the section of the Mackenzie River that traverses the traditional homelands of the Gwichya Gwich’in of Tsiigehtchic (formerly Arctic Red River). This historic place extends from Thunder River on the southeast boundary of their country to Point Separation in the Mackenzie Delta, a 175-kilometer section of the river.

Heritage Value

Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) was designated a national historic site of Canada because:
- it is prominent as a cultural landscape within the Gwichya Gwich’in traditional territory;
- it is culturally, socially and spiritually significant to the people;
- the history of life on the land and along the river is remembered through names that are given to a great number of places on the land and along the river.

The heritage value of Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) is reflected in the cultural landscape along the river that reflects the river’s role as a principal repository of the stories (oral histories) that suffuse with meaning the history of the landscape as the Gwichya Gwich’in know it. The traditional lifestyle of the Gwichya Gwich’in has been shaped by their close connection with the land and the river, and many points along the river play an essential role in the transmission and survival of Gwich’in culture. Nagwichoonjik represents the complex sets of relationships between the Gwich’in people, their traditional lands and their past, before and after the arrival of the European explorers.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Minutes, June 1997; Commemorative Integrity Statement.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- the Mackenzie River and the land along its banks between Thunder River and Point Separation in its location and as a dramatic river valley consisting of a wide waterway, beaches, high cliffs in some places and gentle slopes in others, cut with many creeks, and displaying human impacts from pre-contact to modern times;
- archaeological evidence of Gwich’in use, including camps, settlements, fisheries, quarries, connecting trails and trail heads, burial places, ritual and sacred places;
- the health and wholeness of the riparian ecosystem (its water quality, quantity, rates of flow, sandbars and siltation, fish quality, the health of species such as inconnu and moose;
- the undisturbed land and unimpeded views of the river and along the valley from the river;
- sacred sites along the river (currently being identified by the Gwich’in Cultural Institute);
- ritual sites along the river (currently being identified by the Gwich’in Cultural Institute);
- Gwich’in knowledge of traditional place names along the river.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Learning and the Arts
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality
Peopling the Land
People and the Environment
Peopling the Land
Canada's Earliest Inhabitants

Function - Category and Type


Nature Element


Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Aboriginal Sacred Site

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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