Two new collections of Indigenous culture and knowledge have been added to Canada’s Memory of the World Register.
A press release announced the addition of documents from the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Métis Nation to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization commission. The commission, alongside Library and Archives Canada and the NWT Archives announced the inscription on May 11.
“The Gwich’in Tribal Council Department of Culture and Heritage (GTC-GSCI) continues to work to preserve and promote Gwich’in culture,” said GTC Deputy Grand Chief Kristine McLeod. “We are incredibly proud of the work they do, and for this prestigious honour.
“Our culture is at the core of who we are as a people and it must not only be protected, but promoted and celebrated.”
Complete administrative records and research completed by the GTC-GSCI will be held in a fonds at the NWT Archives. The collection contains irreplaceable knowledge of Gwich’in culture, language, history, archaeology, place names, land use, ecology, genealogy, ethnobotany and traditional skills.
The release states the collection is “most rich, comprehensive, and meticulous documentation of Gwich’in knowledge in the world.”
Also included in the announcement are additions of Lot Settlement Maps from the Métis Nation going back to 1870.
Created by colonial surveyors, the documents show where Métis ancestors lived prior to European occupation of Western Canada. The lot plans unfortunately do not contain any Michif — the historical Métis dialect — but clearly shows how the language originated in the Red River.
“The history of the Manitoba Métis originating in Red River is the history of the Métis Nation. We are the only Indigenous people to bring a province into Canadian Confederation,” said Manitoba Métis President David Chartrand. “On behalf of our Cabinet and Citizens, I’m proud to see our history recognized by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.
“These river lots show our original role of strength and leadership in the Red River Settlement and give us a chance to reflect on where our Nation would be today, if we had not been forced off these lands. If we had been allowed to flourish and develop, I know our economic growth would have been impressive.”
An effort to preserve traditional knowledge as history rolls on, UNESCO’s Memory of the World program attempts to bring together the most meaningful documents in the human species’ global heritage. Not only does it work to preserve traditional and indigenous knowledge, it provides said knowledge base to students and researchers.
Since being established in 2017, Canada’s Memory of the World Register has now collected 20 inscriptions to document Turtle Island’s Indigenous heritage.