Aklavik –”Place of the barren-land grizzly”– was established in 1918 on the west shore of the Peel River, not far from where the Mackenzie River flows into the Beaufort Sea near the foot of the Richardson Mountains. The region is composed of three major physiographic regions: the Mackenzie Delta, the Caribou Hills and the Anderson Plains. Aklavik is located at 68’13’N latitude and 135’00’W longitude. Aklavik itself is located on a flat, muskeg-covered silt, hemmed in by the river and swamps and ponds, at the edge of the treelike. It is the most westerly community in the NWT and boasts a population of approximately 780 people. Located in Inuvialuktun, Aklavik is 58 km by air west across the Delta from Inuvik and accessible by air and water –from Dec.15 to April 15 the frozen river supports a road while water crossings are possible for a portion of the remaining year. 90% of travel to the remote region is therefore via air.
Aklavik was the site where the Inuvialuit and the Gwich’in (Dene) traditionally met and sometimes clashed in their search for food and furs they utilized for sustenance and later, for trade.
The community rapidly became the principal location for trapping, trading and transportation in the muskrat-rich Mackenzie Delta. Hudson Bay established a trading post at Aklavik in 1912. A permanent settlement was located on the Aklavik site shortly thereafter. A Roman Catholic Mission was built, in 1926.
The Beaufort-Delta Self-Government Office was established in Inuvik in October 1996 to negotiate a self governance agreement with the Governments of Canada and the Northwest territories on behalf of the Gwich’in and other aboriginal groups. This process continues today.
Although most inhabitants of Aklavik continue to follow the traditional way of life –hunting, fishing and trapping, local retail businesses, transportation, arts and crafts, tourism and mineral and gas exploration have become a significant secondary economy to the community. Facilities available include a community hall, school, curling rink, playground, a swimming pool, an outdoor rink, playfield, museum, community health centre, fire hall, and churches.