• From camps to communities: Neets'ąįį Gwich'in planning and development in a pre- and post-settlement context

      Stern, Charlene Barbara; Koskey, Michael; Leonard, Beth; Chapin, F. Stuart, III; Aruskevich, Kas (2018-05)
      This study focuses on the Neets'aii Gwich'in, whose traditional territory is located in the northeastern interior of Alaska, and their experiences with planning and development. Prior to settling into permanent villages, the Neets'ąįį lived in widely scattered camps moving in relation to seasonal subsistence resources. Equipped with extensive knowledge of their country, Neets'ąįį people knew at any given time where the best places for certain animals and resources were and thus would camp closer to those areas. According to Neets'ąįį oral history, life in the "those days" was preoccupied with basic survival. Planning ahead, being prepared, and adapting to changing conditions were some of the key strategies that enabled the Neets'ąįį to survive from one generation to the next in one of the harshest climates in the world. The past 170 years has brought unprecedented change to the Neets'ąįį. The socio-economic and political context which historically defined the experience of the Neets'ąįį shifted dramatically as a result of colonization, the establishment of permanent settlements and the ensuing need for community infrastructure. Today, the Neets'ąįį are centralized in two villages, Vashrąįį K'ǫǫ (Arctic Village) and Vįįhtąįį (Venetie), located within the boundaries of the 1.8 million-acre Venetie Indian Reserve. The transition from Neets'ąįį camps to permanent communities has introduced many new needs including landfills, roads, power generation, etc. Whereas Neets'ąįį ancestors traditionally used planning as a survival strategy, their descendants today use planning to attract external investment for much needed infrastructure. This dissertation explores the ways in which the Neets'ąįį Gwich'in have engaged in planning and development in a pre- and post-settlement context.