Old Crow lies north of the Arctic Circle within the traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin and Canada's Yukon Territory. The Gwich'in have lived in this part of the world for millennia. It was not until the arrival of outside traders, however, that they altered their seasonal round to spend more time in the communities that grew up around trading posts.
Old Crow was a seasonal camp at the junction of the Crow and Porcupine Rivers. It is a good place for intercepting the annual migrations of the Porcupine Caribou herd, for fishing, and it is within easy travel of the Old Crow Flats, rich in birdlife and fur-bearing animals.
Sometime in the early 1900s, Anglican church catechist John Tizya built a camp here and the location eventually became the village of Old Crow. According to the late Vuntut Gwitchin Elder John Joe Kaye, people first lived at Old Crow in 1904 and the first trader opened for business in 1911. In 1912, three families based their seasonal activities in Old Crow. In 1918, the Anglican Minister Reverend Totty recommended the construction of a mission building and more Vuntut Gwitchin families moved to Old Crow. Previously, many Vuntut Gwitchin families were based at Rampart House, a trading post located on the Porcupine River close to the United States border.
The community is named after Chief Deetru’ K’avihdik (Crow May I Walk), a respected chief who died in the 1870s.
Over the years, more and more people from the area moved from the small camps to Old Crow to be near the school and government health services. It has become a regional centre but the Vuntut Gwitchin still spend much of their year on the land as they always have.
Canvas boats rafted together returning from Crow Flats in June. Note the dogs and canoe. Exham Coll.
For most of Old Crow's existence, supplies of fuel, food and manufactured goods arrived by water. In the 1960s, this little freighter Brainstorm was the main supply boat. Exham Coll.
An aerial shot of Old Crow on the Porcupine River c. 1964-69.
An adequate wood supply was crucial and not easy to come by north of the Arctic Circle. Here some volunteers are cutting and stacking wood for the church. An early snowmobile can be seen on the right.
Band for the dance. Music is an incredibly important part of life in Old Crow and some of the best fiddlers in the north come from this village. Guitar player (Grafton Njootli) was the first one in Old Crow to graduate from Grade 12. He later became the member for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for Old Crow.