Eroding bluff at Kuukpak. At centre and on right are bones,
artifacts, and house timbers eroding from bluff.

Arctic Cultural Heritage at Risk (Arctic CHAR)

The Lower East Channel of the Mackenzie River, including eastern Richards Island and the north coast of the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula, is home to many archaeological sites which tell an important part of the history of Inuvialuit life over many centuries. 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 sod 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 project “Arctic Cultural Heritage At Risk” (Arctic CHAR) is a collaboration between the University of Toronto and the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre. The project is designed to reveal which parts of the coast are being eroded most quickly, and which heritage sites are being destroyed. Once we understand which sites are most at risk, we will decide which should be excavated, in order to save their contents before they are destroyed.