The City of Yellowknife

The Congress is being held at various educational venues around the city of Yellowknife, site of the Third International Congress in 1974. In addition to serving as the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories since 1967 (covered in this historic CBC clip), Yellowknife is the communications and transportation gateway to Canada’s Far North, and is also home to health care facilities that service the Northwest Territories and parts of Nunavut. Recently, Yellowknife has earned the title of “Diamond Capital of North America” with the discovery of diamonds in the region that has revitalized the city’s traditional mining industry. The population has likewise rebounded and is quickly approaching 20,000, having passed 1,000 in 1940 and 10,000 in 1981.

More details about Yellowknife can be found at the City of Yellowknife visitor’s web site. You can also download a print quality map from here and view a short film on Yellowknife’s history here.

map-northerncanadaThe Northwest Territories

Yellowknife sits on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, the deepest lake in North America and ninth largest in the world. The lake itself bestrides the Canadian Shield to the southeast, tundra in the northeast, and more forested lands in the west, where it is drained by the Deh Cho/Mackenzie River (itself the longest river in Canada) that flows north to the Beaufort Sea. This geological and ecological diversity is experienced in full flower during the summer, where temperatures reach the upper 20s Celsius that local inhabitants enjoy by hiking, swimming, canoeing, sailing, fishing as much as possible under 20 hours of sunlight per day.

Unfortunately, the most spectacular sight in the North — the Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis — is best seen during the equinox months of spring and fall, although faint wisps of “dancing spirits” can still be detected on particularly dark nights of summer.

The People

Since time immemorial, the Dene in the centre and south, Gwich’in in the northwest, and Inuvialuit people in the north have made the Northwest Territories their home. The Dene Nation is composed of the Tłįchǫ, Dehcho, Sahtú, and Akaitcho (including the Yellowknives of Yellowknife) of the entire Mackenzie river basin, while the Inuvialuit consist of the Siglit, Uummarmiut, and Ulukhaktokmuit Inuit who have settled throughout the Beaufort Sea coast as well as the Arctic islands. Gwich’in territory straddles Alaska, Yukon, and the NWT and includes the ecological sensitive habitat of the porcupine caribou. Each of these nations have contributed to the multicultural fabric of the NWT as most vividly represented by the territorial government’s recognition of 11 official languages.

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