Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories Canada

Discover Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories: A Historical and Cultural Gem

Nestled in the Sahtu Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada, the Charter Community of Délı̨nę is a place of rich history and natural beauty. Located on the western shore of Great Bear Lake, 544 km northwest of Yellowknife, Délı̨nę, meaning "where the waters flow," is a reference to the headwaters of the Great Bear River, Sahtúdé. It is the only settlement on the shores of Great Bear Lake, with Fort Confidence last used in the 1800s and Port Radium closed in 1982.

The Historical Journey of Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories

The history of Délı̨nę dates back to 1799 when the North West Company established a trading post in the area. However, it was in 1825 that Peter Warren Dease of the Hudson's Bay Company erected an outpost here as the staging area and winter quarters for Sir John Franklin's second Arctic expedition. This outpost, known as Fort Franklin, is where Sir John Franklin's diary records his men playing ice sports similar to modern-day hockey, making Délı̨nę one of the birthplaces of ice hockey.

The Hudson's Bay Company returned between 1863 and 1869, establishing a post called Fort Norman a short distance west, and across the lake narrows, from John Franklin's original post. Later, Fort Franklin was established as a modern-era trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, constructed at one of the most productive Dene fisheries in the Mackenzie River drainage basin.

The area gained prominence when pitchblende was discovered at the Eldorado Mine, some 250 km away, on the eastern shore, at Port Radium. During World War II, the Canadian Government took over the mine to produce uranium for the then-secret American nuclear bomb project. Unfortunately, the risks associated with radioactive materials were not well communicated, leading to many Dene men being exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation, which Délı̨nę residents believe led to the development of cancer and premature deaths.

On 1 June 1993, the name of Fort Franklin was changed to Délı̨nę, which means "where the waters flow", a reference to the headwaters of the Great Bear River, Sahtúdé.

Archaeological Treasures of Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories

John Franklin's 1825-1827 outpost was excavated by the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in 1987. The excavation uncovered beads, rings, and buttons, indicating the extent of trade between the Dene and Europeans. The site is protected by the Northwest Territories Archaeological Sites Regulations and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1996.

Land Claims and Self-Government in Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories

Délı̨nę is represented by the Délı̨nę First Nation and belongs to the Sahtu Dene Council. Through the council, they completed negotiations with the Government of Canada for a comprehensive land claim settlement in 1993. Following this, Délı̨nę negotiated a self-government agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada. The Final Self-Government Agreement was ratified by a majority vote of Délı̨nę's membership in March 2014 and enacted by the Parliament of Canada in June 2015 through Bill C-63. On September 1, 2016, the Délı̨nę Got'ı̨nę Government entered existence, legally assuming all of the responsibilities formerly held by the Délı̨nę First Nation, the Délı̨nę Land Corporation, and the Charter Community of Délı̨nę.

Demographics of Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Délı̨nę had a population of 573 living in 190 of its 226 total private dwellings, a change of 7.5% from its 2016 population of 533. With a land area of 79.39 km2, it had a population density of 7.2/km2 in 2021. In the 2016 Census, there were 495 Indigenous people made up of 485 First Nations, Sahtu Dene people speaking North Slavey and 10 Métis people.

Climate of Délı̨nę, Northwest Territories

Délı̨nę has a subarctic climate, with mild summers and severely cold winters. Precipitation is very low, but is somewhat higher in the summer than at other times of the year. Despite the harsh climate, the community's rich history and cultural heritage make it a fascinating destination for those interested in the history of Canada's Northwest Territories.