Flora

Our land encompasses both the vast boreal forest and the open tundra. One can experience both the dense growth of spruce and willow in the valley bottoms to the delicate dwarf plants of the alpine all within a few minutes walk of each other. These plants provide the animals we depend on with food and shelter. We also rely on native plants for food and medicine as well as for constructing dwellings, transportation and tools. 

Boreal Forest

Like many northern peoples, we live in the boreal forest, a vast ecosystem of forest, lakes, creeks and river valleys and the many insects, birds and animals that live here. The boreal forest spreads across Canada’s north and other circumpolar countries, ecompassing 1.4 million acres in Canada. The boreal forest is the world’s largest biome or community of plants and animals. Trees include white and black spruce, lodgepole pine, balsam poplar, aspen and willow. The forest is also home to numerous smaller shrubs and plants—including many varieties of berries, flowers, mosses and mushrooms. These large and small plants provide us with food, medicine, shelter, heat, tools and transport.

 

Tundra

The northern portion of our territory contains both subalpine and upland tundra. The subalpine zone describes mountainous areas just above treeline.  To the north of our traditional territory is upland tundra, specifically an area known as the Blackstone Uplands, named after the Blackstone River. Moving north from the boreal forest, trees grow smaller and eventually disappear altogether. Plants include dwarf shrubs and sedges, moss and lichens. The Blackstone Uplands are part of the wintering area of two caribou herds and historically has been an important resource area for three groups of aboriginal people: the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in from the Yukon River valley, and two groups of Gwich’in speakers, the Tukudh from the upper Porcupine River valley area and the Teetl’it Gwich’in from the upper Peel River drainage.

 

Riparian Zone

This term refers to places along the rivers where land meets water. Plant growth is more rapid and denser than farther inland. These areas attract plants that prefer “wet feet” such as poplars, willow and alders. Dying plants – including sweepers, or fallen trees undercut by the current – may shelter juvenile fish or the entrance to an otter’s den. Rotting vegetation provides food for insects. They are eaten by larger creatures which in turn are food for even bigger predators such as pike, salmon, eagles, and bears. 

Boreal forest along the Dempster Highway.

The upland tundra of the Blackstone Uplands.

The upland tundra of the Blackstone Uplands.

Note the dense vegetation along the riverbank.