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Pre-Contact History.

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The first peoples lived in harmony and respect with their natural environment. Throughout this land, groups of people, past and present, had their own cultures determined by the languages they spoke, their clothing and dwellings, the food they are, their methods of hunting, the tools they used, their means of transport, their games, music and their stories and legends. There are similarities and differences with all.


The people were dependant on the availability of natural resources, adapting to the seasonal changes. Their use of snow, wood bark, skins, furs, bone, antler, ivory, animals, fish, birds, berries and plants was a never-ending circle of survival knowledge.


Everything that they needed had to be hunted, gathered, fished, snared speared, or harpooned, and every season required different survival skills and gear. Their tools, clothing, qayaqs, canoes, umiaqs, bows and arrows, spears, sleds and snowshoes, tents, lodges, snow-houses, brush huts, stone lamps, baskets and baby carriers all had to be made, built by hand.


They moved around from various camps, according to the season: early spring, spring, summer, early autumn, late autumn and winter. When the men were hunting game, the women mended, snared small game, and made nets and baskets.


Family units worked as one, each knowing what to do and how to survive. When the hunters returned with their moose, bear, caribou, beluga, whale or seal, there were feasts and story telling, drumming and dancing.


The people had their own lawmakers, medicine healers and spirituality, as well as their own creation stories, legends and myths. Their great storytellers passed the wisdom of Elders from one generation to the next, which told of how for thousands of years this bountiful land had provided for them. They survived and prospered without the wheel, a monetary system, or the written word.


In Northern Aboriginal conceptions of their own history, the Dene and Inuvialuit have lived on the land now called the Northwest Territories since the beginning of time. We know this because stories tell us of a time when all things in this place were created. While creation stories may differ from region to region, the essential elements remain the same.


In all of these stories, an intimate relationship with the land is present. Human beings are not put on the earth to exploit the land and animals, but are dependent upon the natural world. The relationship between all things was held in balance because the Dene and Inuvialuit lived within cultures that respected the land and animals which they lived with.


When considering the pre-contact history of the Dene and Inuvialuit it is important to remember that change is a constant in all cultures. The way of life on this land has been evolving and adapting to changes in the environment and technology since the beginning of time.