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Documenting history

Dorothy Westerman
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 15/05) - A newly-appointed member of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada said her prime goal will be to heighten awareness about the cultures and cultural diversity of the North.

Ingrid Diane Kritsch, the director of the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute in Yellowknife, said her three-year term is an opportunity to showcase the North and show the rest of Canada the significance and importance of Northern culture.

Recognized for her extensive research into Metis and First Nations cultures, Kritsch said the appointment complements her longstanding work with the Gwich'in culture.

Without the co-operation of Gwich'in elders, Kritsch said her research with the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute would be "close to impossible."

"We couldn't do the work we've been doing without them," said Kritsch, the founder and director of the institute. "The elders are very interested in passing on their knowledge, history and culture. They recognize that if it is not documented now, it will be lost because it is not transmitted orally as strongly as it used to be," Kritsch said.

"They've got a great commitment that they want to have as much documented as possible for future generations."

Kritsch said national historical site designation does not protect a site. Instead, it raises awareness about the importance of the place. "The board is responsible for designating people, places and events that are of national significance.

"In that respect, there have been 12 places, four persons and five events recognized in the North," she said.

For example, the Church of Our Lady of Good Hope in Fort Good Hope is a site and Fort McPherson is commemorated as a historical event for the fur trade.

Largest in Canada

A portion of the Mackenzie River - from Point Separation to the Thunder River in the Gwich'in settlement region - was designated as a historic site - the largest in Canada, Kritsch said.

"We've been working very hard to put forward Gwich'in nominations so people will know more about the history and culture to have a greater appreciation both internally within the Gwich'in nation as well as externally."

Historic status often results in increased tourism to a region, which will help bring in money needed for documentation of history, she noted.

Created in 1919, the board has 17 members from across Canada.