Arctic Cultural Heritage at Risk

The Lower East Channel of the Mackenzie River, including eastern Richards Island and the north coast of the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula, is home to many important Inuvialuit heritage sites – some date back as much as 700 years ago. This includes the major settlements of Kitigaaryuit (Kittigazuit), Kuukpak, and Nuvugaq (Atkinson Point), but also many other winter villages, smaller camps, and areas which saw specialized hunting and fishing.

However, these sites are now threatened by climate change, which is causing erosion of the coasts where Inuvialuit built their largest villages. For example, the site of Nuvugaq, which once held at least 17 large houses, is now completely destroyed by erosion. Warmer temperatures are also causing the permafrost to thaw, so delicate artifacts that have been frozen for centuries are now rotting and being destroyed.

The Arctic Cultural Heritage At Risk (Arctic CHAR) project is a collaboration between the University of Toronto and the Inuvialuit Cultural Centre. The project is designed to reveal which heritage sites are most at risk, and then to excavate selected sites in order to save their contents before they are destroyed.