Van Tat Vuntut Gwich’in, ‘People of the Lakes,’ derive their name from Van Tat

Aerial view of Van Tat

Van Tat or Crow Flats is the jewel in the heart of Vuntut Gwich’in traditional lands. It is a large flat area of hundreds of lakes, rivers and streams between the Porcupine River and the British Mountains, drained by the Crow River. Criss-crossed with caribou trails, it is also rich in muskrats, fish, moose and waterfowl. As well as a valuable area for food and furs Van Tat was the place people went in times of scarcity. Vuntut Gwich’in, ‘People of the Lakes,’ derive their name from Van Tat .

Vuntut Gwich’in Elders tell of how they and their ancestors used Van Tat . They describe how Van Tat was important in time of need, to prevent starvation, due to the fish in the small creeksand rivers. Van Tat is highly productive (with proper use and care), supporting a wealth of fish, muskrats, caribou and moose. Van Tat was a place for old men and women to stay when they found travel difficult. Elders say Van Tat was important for the various neighbouring peoples, not only Vuntut Gwich’in. Although always a location for muskrat trapping, in the early twentieth century this became a major activity in the late winter and spring at Van Tat . Elders emphasize that Van Tat has always been valued for the variety and abundance of its resources.

Van Tat has likely been used by Vuntut Gwich’in for a thousands of years. This education package describes the different uses of Van Tat and how it remained centrally important over time. Indeed, Elders continue to emphasize that youth and future generations need to learn about Van Tat as a place to go when times are difficult.

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