Diniizhoo Diniizhoo, a Gwich’in gathering place

Diniizhoo looking west

Diniizhoo is a high hill overlooking Van Tat (Crow Flats), the great low bowl of lakes, creeks and marshland surrounded by mountains and high country on all sides but the southeast, where no major hills intervene between it and Ch’oodeenjik (the Porcupine River). Also known as Tsii’in’ Ddhàa, Game Mountain in English, and Potato Hill on maps, Diniizhoo directly overlooks Van Tat and was an important gathering place, vista, hunting, fishing and berry-collecting area, and landmark. Diniizhoo was in the vicinity of tthał ( caribou fences) to the north and west and a fishery at the foot of the hill, which provided the means to support large summer gatherings of Gwich’in. Such gatherings were important ways for dispersed Gwich’in to maintain vital communication and social ties with other Gwich’in and with neighbouring non-Gwich’in (Ch’ineekaii – Inuvialuit).

Gwich’in Elders refer to stories from their own elders about people gathering at Diniizhoo from Gwich’in communities now in Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The English name, Game Mountain, refers to the activities at Diniizhoo which included games, dancing, marriages, exchange of gifts, and generally socializing, sharing and living together. Diniizhoo is one of only 3 or 4 such gathering places in Van Tat Gwich’in territory. There is evidence of the antiquity of the gatherings of Gwich’in at Diniizhoo from oral history and archaeology.

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