The gyrfalcon is an impressive and powerful bird whose swiftness and beauty have been admired for centuries. With a wingspan of up to 63 inches, it is the largest of the falcons, recognizable in three plumage phases of white, grey and black.
This most northerly of falcons, at home in the open terrain of the Arctic, can reach higher sustained speeds than any other bird of prey, and is the only falcon capable of successful ground level pursuit. Swiftness, combined with responsiveness to human attention, makes the gyrfalcon unique.
To acknowledge we were embarking upon a time of regeneration and renewal, the Inuvialuit chose the gyrfalcon as our symbol during the early days of land claims negotiations. This was a time when the great bird's population was beginning to regenerate, and it would soon be taken off the endangered species list.
Extinction of the Inuvialuit had at one time also been a very real possibility. With the rise of the fur trade, contact with Tan'ngit (foreigners) had increased, resulting in a series of devastating epidemics during the early decades of the twentieth century. It is said that at the height of the epidemics, in Tunnuk, a tiny island in the Mackenzie River, barely enough children remained to join hands and encircle the island.
Like the gyrfalcon, the Inuvialuit have proven our resilience. A new era began on June 5, 1984, when the Inuvialuit Final Agreement was signed and our cultural, environmental and economic aspirations were formalized.