Underhill Remembers – The Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) Survey

Our first historical survey feature for National Indigenous History Month is “The Western Arctic Claim – The Inuvialuit Final Agreement” Survey. The land claim is also referred to as the COPE (Committee for Original Peoples’ Entitlement) Claim. In 1984, it represented the first northern comprehensive land claim agreement between the Federal Government, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Inuvialuit and was only the second in Canada at the time. The Inuvialuit are the Western Canadian Inuit. 

Chris Cryderman remembers; “The camp pictured was the Horton River camp.  It was situated on a hill above “Underhill” Lake (we called it that because it was “U”-shaped).  The crew who were set up here were, William Robinson, Carl Friesen, myself, and pilot Steve Jaksie of Sunrise Helicopters in Inuvik.  The two tent trailers had been modified by Sunrise to be slung there by helicopter.  The pilot had to go light on fuel load, and strip down, just to get one off the ground.  The canvas work tent (dubbed the “Underhilton”) was brought in by a Twin Otter on floats, along with plywood, 2×4’s, fuel, and other camp supplies.  Fortunately the grizzlies stayed away from camp. It was warm during the day but so cold at night that I used to sleep with just my nose sticking out of my mummy bag. ”  

Initially, there was little involvement in the surveying process from the Inuvialuit people; lessons had not been learned at this time. The lack of participation was definitely an issue with the Indigenous people and that was heard. For future projects Natural Resources Canada demanded more participation from local people and businesses through the proposal process. As time passed and more contracts were let, local Indigenous involvement grew significantly providing the majority of the work done including surveying, guiding, helicopter support and maintenance, vehicle supply, hotel, food, camps, cooks, etc. As well it became a wonderful experience for some of our staff to work with, train and learn about the land and more about the Indigenous peoples themselves and their cultures.  

Read more about the facts behind historic survey and view pictures here.