Jean-Luc Pilon
NOGAP Archaeologist
Canadian Museum of Civilization

The Town of Inuvik is included in this section on people not because there is a third, distinctive ethnic group that lives there, but because it represents a new element, a new dynamic in the ethnic make-up of the region's population.

Inuvik (an Inuvialuktun word meaning "the place of Man") is a unique community in the Mackenzie Delta/Beaufort region. The inhabitants of Inuvik come from the region's two major Native groups, the Gwich'in and the Inuvialuit, but they also include a very sizeable non-Native population drawn from just about every quarter of the globe. A bronze monument in front of Sir Alexander Mackenzie School commemorates the three peoples coming together as one.

Inuvik is also the largest centre in the western Arctic with a population of 3206 (as of the 1991 census).


Inuvik was planned by the Canadian government in the late 1950's in order to replace flood-prone Aklavik as the region's administrative centre. Canadian Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker dedicated Inuvik as "The first community north of the Arctic Circle built to provide northern facilities of a Canadian town. It was designed not only as a base for development and administration, but as a centre to bring education, medical care and new opportunity to the people of the western Arctic." Inuvik witnessed the oil and gas exploration boom of the 1970's and early 1980's. But with the changes in world oil and gas markets, activities have shifted to a wider range of economic sectors including aboriginal administration and tourism.

Inuvik's uniqueness in the region also comes from the wide range of facilities and services available there. Diefenbaker's vision, for better or for worse, has come to pass. Today, a traveller can reach Inuvik via the Dempster Highway from Whitehorse, Yukon or by 737 from Yellowknife. In Inuvik it's possible to worship in a number of churches, dine in a selection of fine restaurants, stay in any one of several good hotels. The many stores in Inuvik carry the full range of goods available in southern Canada, although transportation costs do add a premium to their prices. Schools begin at kindergarden and end with college programmes. All but the most serious medical and dental problems can be dealt with in Inuvik. But the visitor should not be fooled, Inuvik still lies at the crossroads of cultures, at the very edge of a vast land, largely unspoiled by the western world.