Gwich'in is an Athabaskan language with about 400 speakers in the
Northwest Territories, were it has official status, and Yukon Territory of
Canada. There are a further 300 speakers in Alaska. Most speakers of
Gwich'in are elderly, though in a few communities, the language is
used by all ages of people.
The Gwich'in language has also been known as Loucheux, Kutchin and Tukudh.
Gwich'in was first reduced to writing by Robert McDonald (1829-1913) a
Church of England missionary, in the 1870s. His Gwich'in translations of
the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer and a hymnal are still read by middle-aged
and older people. Younger people are more familiar with the new Gwich'in
spelling system, which was devised by Richard Mueller in the 1960s.
nasal vowels have an ogonek accent, e.g. ą, ę, etc.
the low tone is optionally marked with a grave accent, e.g., à
We are one of the most northerly aboriginal peoples on the North American
continent, living at the northwestern limits of the boreal forest. Only the
Inuit live further north. We are part of a larger family of Aboriginal people
known as Athabaskans, which include peoples such as the Slavey, Dogrib, Han
and Tutchone but our language and way of life is distinct.