Accepted Paper:

"Never say die" - notes on a stubborn hamlet in an Arctic river delta  


Franz Krause (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation relates narratives from Aklavik, NWT (Canada), to the grand narrative of progress and modernity, and elaborates some inherent frictions.

Paper long abstract:

Aklavik is a settlement of around 600 inhabitants in the centre on the Canadian Mackenzie Delta. Its multi-ethnic population is mostly comprised of people belonging to the Inuvialuit and Gwich'in First Nations. These and other groups congregated at Aklavik in the process of the fur trade, which had its peak in the Mackenzie Delta during the early 20th century, when Aklavik turned into a regional hub for services and administration.

After a series of floods, and the realization that expanding Aklavik into the muddy delta would be rather complicated, the government decided to relocate the hamlet and its inhabitants to higher ground at the edge of the delta, where they created a purpose built town. While most services and many people moved, some preferred to stay in Aklavik, preferring the proximity of trap lines, fish camp sites and a small community to the permanent roads, municipal infrastructure and urban appeal of the new town. Some of the remaining inhabitants, not without a sense of humour, coined the hamlet's new slogan: 'never say die!'

This presentation will outline some of the idiosyncrasies of life in Aklavik, which people often formulate in opposition to the more modern and progressive ways of town life. It will trace the role that the amphibious delta environment plays in these narratives of distinctiveness, and point to some possible relations between this amphibiousness and the hamlet's multi-ethnic setup.

Panel Env05
Amphibious dwelling: exploring life between wet and dry