beautiful mountain scenery

Old Crow: Land and Environment

[Digital Collections Website]

Porcupine Caribou Herd

Calving Grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

For thousands of years the Porcupine Caribou Herd has migrated over the lands occupied by the Gwich'in people. The people harvest from the herd twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. This herd has provided the people with food, clothing, and shelter for countless generations. The winter months are from October to mid-May when the ice breaks up on the river.

The Gwich'in people have been living a sustainable lifestyle in the harsh climate of Canada's north for thousands of years by maintaining strong traditional connections to the land.

The growing period for the food the caribou eat is very limited, so this herd of 160,000 animals needs a huge territory to stay well-fed and healthy. Their winter range is enormous and then in spring they migrate to their calving grounds on the coastal plain of Alaska. Unfortunately, the Alaskan government has high interests in oil and gas development in the heart of the calving grounds.

picture of boats tied up on Porcupine River in front of Old Crow

Boats tied up on Porcupine River in front of Old Crow.
Yukon Government photo.

The Gwich'in have been educating the United States government and people across the United States on how vital it is to preserve the calving grounds so that the caribou herd can remain healthy and so that the people can maintain a culture and a way of life that has co-existed with nature for thousands of years. Recent archeological discoveries have shown that the people have survived with this herd and the ecosystem for 25,000 years. It would be devastating to completely wipe out this strong international Gwich'in connection to the land with a stroke of a pen by the U.S. government. Fortunately, President Clinton has been supportive in preserving the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd.

picture of Porcupine River

Porcupine River.
Yukon Government photo.


Dean Abel shooting muskrat
during "tansii" (when ice is clear
of snow in the spring).
Yukon Government photo.

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