Scottie Creek Borderlands culture history project

The Scottie Creek Borderlands Culture History Project began in 1990-91 as an ethnographic and historical study of the effects on and accommodation of the Upper Tanana Dineh athapaskans by the imposition of the international border between Yukon, Canada and Alaska, United States upon their aboriginal homeland, located in the region around border transected by the Alaska Highway. By the mid-1990s it broadened into a long-term interdisciplinary study of the borderland’s prehistory, cultural geography, traditional culture, and contemporary life of the communities of Beaver Creek, Yukon, and Northway, Tetlin, and Tanacross, Alaska.


A selection of Chindadn Points from the Little John site, c. 13,000 years old.

fISH CAMP 2005

Mrs. Darlene Northway shares women's knowledge with students at Big Scottie Creek fish camp, 2005.

Project Overview

A Yukon College sponsored field school supporting the project was held in 1994 and subsequently from 1999 through 2016. The program combined archaeological survey and excavation with ethnographic enquiry, including oral history, language and place-names documentation, kinship and social relations, subsistence and other land-use patterns, traditional technology, and contemporary adaptations of indigenous aboriginal society to state structures and capitalist culture. The fundamental structure of the investigation is community-based, with strong involvement of the local First Nation administration, elders, and youth, and active participation in the life of the community at fish camps, ball games, and through community service, forging cross-cultural understanding and new lasting friendships that irrevocably change our lives for the better.

The field program has conducted archaeological survey along the lower and middle reaches of the Scottie Creek valley, the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, and Northway, Healy Lake, and Tanacross Native lands, however its principal focus since 2002 has been the Little John site (Borden # KdVo-6) near Beaver Creek, Yukon, which holds stratified cultural deposits from Late Pleistocene Beringia 14,000 years ago to the present.  The Little John site was closed and remediated in 2017 and an active program of comprehensive laboratory analysis and publication is now underway to supplement the interim publications listed below.

mR Joseph June 2012

Mr. Joseph Tommy Johnny sharing oral history of the borderlands with students, June 2012.

Deadman Lake 2012

Community youth and student excavating at Deadman Lake, 2012.

Project Team

Principal Investigator: Norman Alexander Easton, Instructor Anthropology, Archaeology, Northern Studies, School of Liberal Arts, Yukon College.

Mr. David Johnny, Beaver Creek, Scottie Creek Dineh Cultural Expert

Mrs. Ruth Johnny, Beaver Creek, Northway Dineh Cultural Expert

Beaver Creek 1994

Mrs. Bessie John splitting spruce for basket thread, Beaver Creek, 1994.

Beaver Creek 2002

Ruth and David Johnny butchering moose, Beaver Creek, 2002.

Collaborating Scholars

Robert Sattler, Senior Archaeologist, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Fairbanks

Dr. David Yesner, Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska-Anchorage

Dr. Vance Hutchinson, Whitehorse, Yukon

Dr. Jeffery Rasic, Chief of Resources, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. National Park Service, Fairbanks

Dr. Julie Esdale, Colorado State University, Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands

Dr. Joel Cubley, Geological Technology Program, Yukon College

Dr. Mary Samolczyk, Geological Technology Program, Yukon College

Dr. E. James Dixon, Professor, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico

Dr David

Dr. David Yesner identifying Little John artifacts with the Yukon Paleontology comparative collection.


Graduate Student Participants

Field Program

Field Program participants at the Little John site, 2008


Michael Grooms, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico. Geomorphology of the Little John Site (ongoing).

Jordan Handley, MA, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia. A Gendered Analysis of Lithic Artifacts at the Little John Site (ongoing).

Laurianne Bourgeon, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of Montreal. Taphonomic Analysis of Little John Fauna (2017).

Francoise Lanoe, PhD, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona. Collagen Stable Isotope Ratios of Selected Little John Pleistocene Fauna (2017).

Jordan Handley, Senior Thesis, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University. pXRF Analysis of Basaltic Artifacts from the Little John Site (2013).

Emily Youatt, Senior Thesis, Division of History and Social Sciences, Reed College. Cultural Continuity on the Yukon – Alaska Borderlands (2010).

Christopher Baker, Senior Thesis, Department of Anthropology, Laurentian University. Textual Analysis of Sediments from the Little John Site (2004).

Glen MacKay, MA, Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria. Analysis of the Nii-ii (KdVo-5) Site (1997).

In addition, the field program was assisted by 315 student participants from 1994 to 2016; 36% of these students have been Northern Native youth.


Student visit

Student visit to White River First Nation / Northway Village fish camp, 2012.


School of Liberal Arts, Geological Technology Program, and Northern Research Centre, Yukon College.

White River First Nation

Northway Village Council and Northway Inc.

Tetlin Village Council

Tanacross Village Council

Healy Lake Village Council

Tanana Chiefs Conference

University of Alaska-Anchorage


White River First Nation

Faculty Research Fund, Yukon College

Northern Research Endowment Fund, Yukon College

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Northern Scientific Training Fund

Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies

Tanana Chiefs Conference

Yukon Heritage Resources Board

Publications - Archaeology









Publications - Ethnology

 Ethnography, Ethnohistory, Cultural Geography, and Linguistics








  • Aboriginal People's Television Network, 2015. Land of the Giants. Wild Archaeology. Season 1, Epidsode 2. 22:03
  • Aboriginal People's Television Network, 2015. Little John. Wild Archaeology. Season 1, Epidsode 3. 21:59