Alpine Ice Patches and Shúhtagot’ine Land Use in the Mackenzie and Selwyn Mountains, Northwest Territories, Canada


  • Thomas D. Andrews
  • Glen MacKay
  • Leon Andres
  • Wendy Stephenson
  • Amy Barker
  • Claire Alix
  • Shútagot'ine Elders of Tulita



Shúhtagot’ine, Mountain Dene, traditional knowledge, ice patch, interdisciplinarity, collaboration, traditional land use, archaeological ethnography, science camps, Northwest Territories


The NWT Ice Patch Study was developed in partnership with the Shúhtagot’ine residents of Tulita, Northwest Territories, Canada. This paper explores how Shúhtagot’ine traditional knowledge, collected through the direct participation of Elders in our archaeological fieldwork, science camps with Elders and youth, Elder interviews, and traditional land-use mapping, is informing our interpretation of archaeological data collected at alpine ice patches in the Selwyn Mountains. While knowledge of bow-and-arrow and snare technologies persists in Shúhtagot’ine culture, Shúhtagot’ine oral history does not contain detailed knowledge of throwing dart technology. Using data collected in our traditional land-use mapping project, we consider the role of ice patches in the broader context of Shúhtagot’ine land use. We propose that resource harvesting on high alpine plateaus and adjacent ice patches in the summer was more important in late precontact times than it was after contact. Shúhtagot’ine land-use practices involve long-distance travel in all seasons. Safe travel in the alpine landscape requires detailed knowledge of environmental conditions, such as snow and ice conditions, and respectful engagement with the spiritual entities inhabiting the landscape.