20.4 Trends in protection of cultural areas

Last Updated: 
October 13, 2015

This indicator measures the number of cultural sites and landscapes included in the core protected areas of the Northwest Territories (NWT). Culturally significant areas of the NWT include areas where traditional and contemporary Aboriginal land use practices such as camping, travelling, hunting, trapping, fishing, plant harvesting and spiritual acitivites take place.

Manitou Island, Great Bear Lake

Manitou Island, Great Bear Lake, Deline. August 2010. Photo: Tessa Macintosh.

Recorded archaeological sties are used to measure this indicator. Archaeological sites in the NWT are classed into five different categories based on the time period in which a site was occupied. The number of these sites found within a core protected area is expressed as a percentage of the total number of known archaeological sites within the NWT. Cultural values data for core protected areas is found in management plans and State of the Park reports for national parks and federally managed national historic sites and from the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre NWT Archaeological Sites Database.

NWT Focus

In the NWT, the term land cannot be separated from culture. The way of life Aboriginal people lived, and continue to live, is based on the land. The use of land, for hunting and trapping, and the lakes and rivers, for fishing and travel routes, defines everyday life. The land is the foundation of the cultures of Aboriginal peoples.

This tie between land and culture means protecting areas with cultural significance often simultaneously protects areas of ecological importance. These may be large landscape-level areas, such as caribou calving, animal migration and bird nesting areas. Some may be on a smaller scale and include special features on the landscape, such as springs where clean water is collected.

Current status and trend

Flake from lithic scatter

Flake from lithic scatter. Photo: T. Andrews.

Archaeological data is used to evaluate the protection of cultural areas. There are 6,565 known aechaeological sites in the NWT. These sites are classified into five categories based on the time period in which they were occupied. The data on the number of sites found in each core protected area,  the total number of sites in core protected areas and a percentage of the total number of sites in the NWT is presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Archaeological Sites within Core Protected Areas

Core Protected Area

Category

Total Number of Sites

Prehistoric

Indigenous Historic

Historic

Contemporary

Unknown, Mixed or Other

Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary

8

8

-

-

5

21

Aulavik National Park

74

237

-

1

23

335

Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 2

-

1

-

-

1

2

Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 1

4

-

1

-

1

6

Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

3

1

-

-

-

4

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve

-

3

-

6

-

9

Nahanni National Park Reserve

15

8

12

37

26

98

Saoyú ʔehdacho National Historic Site

37

22

4

-

1

64

Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary

71

1

-

-

8

80

Tuktut Nogait National Park

146

71

-

5

125

347

Wood Buffalo National Park

-

-

-

-

7

7

Totals

 

Number of sites in core protected areas

358

352

17

49

197

973

Total number of known sites in the NWT

3,903

1,270

245

374

773

6,565

Percentage of  known sites protected in core protected areas

9%

28%

7%

13%

25%

15%

The data show all core protected areas in the NWT include some degree of inclusion of cultural areas. This is expected as cultural sites are found across the NWT and any large area of land will contain archaeological sites.

All archaeological sites in the NWT are protected by legislation, whether they are located in a core protected area or not1.

Some core protected areas in the NWT protect cultural areas even if they may have originally been selected for protection because of ecological reasons. Other core protected areas in the NWT become protected areas mainly because of their cultural value.

Saoyú-Ɂehdacho National Historic Site of Canada consists of two peninsulas in Great Bear Lake known as teaching, healing and spirital places, which are essential to the cultural well-being of the Sahtúgot’įnę -- "the people of the Sahtu". The area was proposed for protection by the community of Deline in 1999. The land has been protected and administered by Parks Canada2 since 2009.  Another area, Ezǫdzìtì, was established under the Tlicho Agreement as "a heritage resource of historical and cultural significance to the Tlicho First Nation and to all Canadians"3. Fort Smith Mission Historic Park is a small Heritage Park established under the NWT Territorial Parks Act to protect what remains of the original Oblate Catholic Mission, which was constructed in the early 1900s and forms the centre of the town of Fort Smith.

Looking around

Cultural sites and landscapes are recognized nationally and internationally and are protected in other provinces and territories in Canada.

Yambahti campsite

Yambahti campsite. Photo: S. Moore.

World Heritage Sites include culturally important areas, which are recognized and protected. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump4, where Aboriginal people hunted buffalo for 6,000 years, is a World Heritage Site in Alberta. The site is recognized internationally and protected by the Province of Alberta.

National Historic Sites of Canada include battlefields and forts as well as locations and landscapes with cultural significance to Aboriginal people. Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada in Nova Scotia is considered a cultural landscape that attests to 4,000 years of Mi'kmaq occupancy of the area and includes petroglyph sites, habitation sites, fishing sites, hunting territories, travel routes and burials.5

In Ontario, the mandate for creation of Provincial Parks includes areas of cultural heritage. "Protecting provincially significant elements of Ontario's natural and cultural heritage" is written directly within the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act as part of the purpose and objectives of the Act.6 Ontario considers 13 different cultural "themes", ranging from indigenous settlements to forestry industry communities to military. More than one third of these themes are represented in provincial parks.7

Looking forward

In addition to protecting cultural areas as indicated by archaeological sites found in proposed protected areas, more areas are proposed for protection as a core protected area because of their cultural values. Under the Territorial Parks Act, a Territorial Park can be established as a Cultural Conservation Area. Łue Túé Sųlái (Five Fish Lakes) is one area proposed to become a Cultural Conservation Area.8

It is likely the number of cultural sites located in core protected areas will increase as the number of core protected areas in the NWT increases. However,the percentage of all known cultural sites located in core protected areas may change as many  contemporary and historic sites have only been partially documented. A large proportion of the archaeological sites discovered in the NWT are found due to impact assessment studies for development projects. The total number of known cultural sites in the NWT will probably always increase at a greater rate than the number of sites in core protected areas. The trend in cultural sites located in core protected areas will not change over time unless more effort is put into surveys within core protected areas. As a result, archaeological sties may not be the best indicator for measuring trends in the protection of cultural sites. Better trend data would be land use data because areas of cultural importance to the communities of the NWT are mapped out based on traditional trails and travel routes, hunting and fishing sites, etc. This data could be overlaid to determine how many culturally significant sites are included within core protected areas. As data becomes available, it will be included in future State of the Environment reporting.

Blueberries

Blueberries. Photo: GNWT/ENR

This indicator may also expand to include both core protected areas and conservation areas of the NWT. Conservation areas are lands which are protected for conservation purposes but with less stringent protection than core areas. For example, conservation zones in land use plans, which also use cultural information when determining zoning.

Find out more

Technical notes

Please note that the data for cultural values is not complete and what is publically available is largely limited to archaeological data. Archaeological sites are only one type of cultural value in core protected areas. For the purposes of this report, analysis has been largely limited to archaeological sites due to the limitations of the available data. It is hoped that future reporting will cover cultural values data beyond those values that are covered here.

It is important to recognize that the number of sites in a given core protected area only reflects the level of effort of archaeological survey in that area rather than the actual density of archaeological sites. As such this data is not systematic, but rather a reflection where archaeologists have looked for sites. Each area will have many more sites that haven't been recorded. It is important to keep this in mind when comparing the number of archaeological sites between areas and the density of known sites outside of core protected areas.

Archaeological sites, where artifacts have been left, are classified in this report into five categories:

  1. Prehistoric sites represent some of the earliest North American cultures and predate the initial contact with Europeans in the NWT in about 1780.
  2. Indigenous Historic Sites were sites created by indigenous people post-contact.
  3. Historic Sites refer to non-indigenous post-contact archaeological sites.
  4. Contemporary archaeological sites are those which might be still in use by northerners, such as campgrounds or prime hunting locations.
  5. Unknown, Mixed, or Other sites are those archaeological sites which do not fit well within one category or the origins are undetermined.

There are 6,565 unique instances of these classification categories in the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre's Archsites database, 770 resulting from sites within multiple classification values. Sites may have multiple classification values for a number of reasons, as a single site may have been occupied multiple times throughout history.

This indicator was written by GNWT Environment and Natural Resources - Conservation Assessment and Monitoring Division, and reviewed by the NWT Cultural Places Program of the GNWT Department of Education, Culture, and Employment.

 

Found an error or have a question? Contact the team at NWTSOER@gov.nt.ca.


References:

Ref. 1 - Government of the Northwest Territories, Justice. 2014. http://www.justice.gov.nt.ca/legislation/searchleg&reg.shtmlArchaeological Sites Act and Archaeological Sites Regulations.

Ref. 2 - Saoyú-Ɂehdacho National Historic Site of Canada.

Ref. 3 - Tlicho Agreement. Section 17.6.1.

Ref. 4 - Alberta Culture and Tourism. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site.

Ref. 5 - Parks Canada. Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada.

Ref. 6 - Ontario. Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006.

Ref. 7 - Ontario. 2011. State of Ontario's Protected Areas Report. Queen's Printer for Ontario.

Ref. 8 - Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy. 2012. Łue Túé Sųlái