NWT Archives/Dept. of Info/G-1979-023: 2456

NWT Archives/Dept. of Info/G-1979-023: 2456

Fort Franklin

Statement of Significance

The site is locally known by the Sahtu Dene as Délįne (“where the water flows”), on Sahtu (Great Bear Lake), near the present-day community of the same name. It has been a gathering place for the people for at least 6,000 years, called a fishery by the fur traders because of its importance to the Dene and traders as a source of food. Captain John Franklin, on his Second Arctic Land Expedition 1825-1827, set up a fort at this site.

This location had been used for centuries by the Aboriginal people because it is an excellent fishing spot. Early traders were attracted to the location because of its capacity to supply a regular source of food but also because it was frequented by local Aboriginal people. Captain Franklin set up his post, Fort Franklin, on the remains of an old North West Company trading post. The expedition came into close contact with the Tłįchǫ who wintered there, and with the Slavey and Gwich’in who journeyed from along the north shore of Sahtu to trade meat and furs. The meat trade with the Dene of Great Bear Lake was essential to the expedition’s food supply. Without this exchange, the expedition might well have faced the misery which had befallen his earlier expedition. In exchange, Dr. Richardson, a naval surgeon, provided medical care. Archaeological excavations completed with help from the community revealed the existence of earlier and later Dene camps. Aboriginal technology and European goods were found together and the recovery of various items demonstrates the social interaction between the Dene and Europeans.

Key elements that define the heritage character of Délįne include:

  • The location has been used for over 6,000 years as a Dene gathering and fishing place
  • Dene prophet, Old Andre, had a cross erected on the site as a sign of spiritual renewal for his people.
  • Franklin’s expedition, using local knowledge, set up their camp at the important Dene fishery known as Délįne
  • Franklin’s expedition was important in Britain’s effort of exploration and scientific discovery in the Canadian North. His expedition completed mapping of a vast territory, then poorly known to Europeans
  • Dr. Richardson and George Back, members of the expedition, recorded and documented local flora and fauna for scientific research.
  • Archaeological evidence excavated with the community of Délįne has provided a fuller understanding of the Dene use of the area and the European presence.
  • Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre; Government of the Northwest Territories. “Deline” Northern Vignettes. Yellowknife, 1990. Print.