Master's Research Project

Northern Athapaskan people of northern Canada and Alaska made high-quality knives from natural copper before European Contact. In over 200 years since European traders first collected the knives, there is still very little known about the knife. The goal of my research is to explore this unknown history by examining how current relationships and representations of the knife in the North are being presented in museum settings worldwide and Indigenous cultural centres within communities. I will compare how the Northwest Territories (NWT), Yukon, and Alaska are establishing a relationship with the copper knife.

Unprecedented advances in digital technology in the field of Anthropology have led to new linguistic discoveries that connect Northern Athapaskan speakers with a remote tribe in Northern Russia. Suggesting this linguistic link might also suggest a shared metal technology between the two groups. Is there a connection between knives in Siberia and those associated with Athapaskan? Researchers are suggesting the direction of the connection is west to east because the Russian Kets are linguistically isolated from other Indigenous groups in the area.


Oral history projects in Northern Canada have collected stories from Indigenous people from the Northern Athapaskan languages since the 1960s. A lot of this material is isolated in these remote communities across the North. The impacts of smallpox and tuberculosis epidemics decimated our community’s knowledge keepers, creating gaps in the oral history and fragmenting the memories of life before Contact. There are a few publications from the 1990s in the NWT that capture some of this knowledge, but there is still a lot of material to organize.