Discover Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories: A Rich Blend of History and Culture

Behchokǫ̀, officially known as the Tłı̨chǫ Community Government of Behchokǫ̀, is a vibrant community nestled in the North Slave Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Located on the Yellowknife Highway, on the northwest tip of Great Slave Lake, Behchokǫ̀ is approximately 110 km northwest of Yellowknife.

The Historical Journey of Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories

The history of Behchokǫ̀ dates back to 1772 when explorer Samuel Hearne first encountered Dogrib-speaking people while traversing the lands north of Great Slave Lake. Later, in 1789, trader Alexander Mackenzie came close to their territory while trading with the Yellowknives, another First Nations peoples, along the north arm of the big lake.

The first trading post in this region, known as Old Fort Providence, was established in 1789 by the North West Company. However, it was not a significant trading centre and closed in 1823. The Dogrib Dene were then required to trade with Hudson's Bay Company posts on the south side of Great Slave Lake at Fort Resolution.

In the 1830s, peace was made between the Dogrib and the Yellowknives Dene, led by their respective leaders, Edzo and Akaitcho. Following this, the Dogrib returned to their traditional hunting grounds.

In 1852, Fort Rae was established as a wintering provision post for the Hudson's Bay Company. Named after Scotsman explorer John Rae, it became an important trading post for the Dogrib Dene.

In the 1950s, due to concerns about runoff contaminating drinking water sources, the government proposed constructing a new settlement on more favourable terrain. This community, known as Edzo, was located on the west side of the Frank Channel opposite Fort Rae. However, most of the Dene families refused to move, resulting in Rae and Edzo becoming two separate communities, although administered together.

On 4 August 2005, the name Rae-Edzo was changed to Behchokǫ̀.

Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories: A Snapshot of Demographics

According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Behchokǫ̀ had a population of 1,746 living in 460 of its 541 total private dwellings, a change of -6.8% from its 2016 population of 1,874. With a land area of 74.96 km2, it had a population density of 23.3/km2 in 2021. The Indigenous population in 2016 was made up of 1,695 First Nations and 50 Métis people.

First Nations in Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories

Behchokǫ̀ is one of the four Tłı̨chǫ communities and is the largest Dene community in Canada. It was the site of the signing of the Tłı̨chǫ land claim agreement that brought about the Tlicho Government.

Transportation in Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories

The main street within Behchokǫ̀ is Donda Tili, which connects to the Yellowknife Highway and then to either Yellowknife or south to Fort Providence and southern Canada. During winter, three ice roads are available to connect to Gamètì, Wekweètì and Whatì to the north and west. The closest major public airport is Yellowknife Airport via an hour drive east. Nearby Rae/Edzo Airport is a private airport.

Services in Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories

Religious Services

  • Tlicho Baptist Church
  • St Michael's Catholic Church

Community Services

  • Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School in Rae (K-6)
  • Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Edzo (K-12)
  • Kǫ̀ Gocho Complex - new recreation centre
  • Behchokǫ̀ Cultural Centre - community centre
  • Tłı̨chǫ Friendship Centre

Housing Issues in Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories

Behchokǫ̀ has been facing a long-term and chronic housing crisis due to multiple issues: insufficient funding for affordable units, disrepair of existing housing stock, and the inability of many living in public housing to pay rent.