Great Canadian Parks / Yukon Territory

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The Parks / Yukon Territory / Vuntut National Park


 

While most of Canada lay under vast glaciers some 30 000 years ago, the Vuntut area, because of its arid climate, remained ice free, a refuge for Pleistocene species, such as the American mastodon, the woolly mammoth, the monstrous ground sloth and the giant horse, all now extinct. Also present were the largest predators: the giant short-faced bear, the American lion and the scimitar cat. Discoveries of more than 20 000 fossils, cultural artifacts, and even mummified carcasses of ice age animals in over 56 sites in the permafrost and along the eroding banks of the Old Crow and Porcupine Rivers, within the boundaries of the park, are helping to piece together the story of a time when the flats were part of the Beringia Region. Across the vast landscape of grassy steppe tundra, North America’s earliest inhabitants pursued the giant western camel, long-haired bison and giant beaver as well as many species that continue to find their home in the park today - the barren ground caribou, moose, muskrat, fox, wolf and wolverine.

Diggings at archeological sites along the trails and riverbanks have unearthed cultural artifacts of Yukon’s First Nation’s ancestors, who made their home in the Beringia during the last ice age at least 24 000 years ago, and ultimately populated the entire North and South American continents. Caribou as well as other large mammals, most now extinct, provided food, clothing, shelter, tools, weapons and ceremonial items for the Vuntut Gwitchen - ‘the people of the deer’. Nine Gwitchen regional First Nations, including the Vuntut Gwitchen who lived along the Porcupine River and its northern tributaries, the Old Crow River, Old Crow Flats and parts of Alaska, existed in the late 18th century. In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie’s expedition came across Gwitchin fishing camps on the Mackenzie River near what is now Fort McPherson. Trading posts were built and the fur industry thrived at the Old Crow trading post until as late as 1911. The Old Crow Flats remain central to the Vuntut Gwitchin people’s culture and way of life. The native people and the federal government manage the park cooperatively, emphasizing the aboriginal history, culture and use of the land, including harvesting rights, maintaining the integrity of what has been described as ‘the crown jewels of wildlife habitats in northwestern Canada’, one of Canada’s most pristine and least disturbed national parks

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