The Gwich'in people are the northernmost Indian nation in North America. Their home lies in the shadow of the Brooks Range in northeastern Alaska and in northwestern Canada. The Gwich'in are a sustainable society that depends on caribou just as the plains people depended on buffalo. For thousands of years their lives have been intertwined. Paleontologists have found evidence that caribou have roamed this region for at least 50,000 years. Bone artifacts from Old Crow in the Yukon Territory indicate that they have shared the land with humans for at least 27,000 years. Today about 5,000 Gwich'in live in Alaska and Canada, and until recently they were influenced very little by the commotion of our modern, industrialized world.
The Gwich'in people rely heavily on the 120,000 strong Porcupine Caribou Herd. Physically, culturally, socially and spiritually the Gwich'in depend on them. The caribou give them clothing and tools. Their creation story tells of a time when there were only animals. In time people arose from the animals, and when that happened the Gwich'in came from the caribou. According to Gwich'in traditional believes there was an agreement between the two that still stands to this day, the Gwich'in retain a piece of the caribou heart and the caribou retain a piece of the Gwich'in heart. They are like one. Whatever befalls the caribou will befall the Gwich'in.Their traditional songs and dances tell of the special relationship the Gwich'in have with the caribou. How the caribou delivered the people from famine. Just as the caribou has ensured the survival of the Gwich'in, they must ensure the survival of the caribou.