Courtesy Greg Yeoman/INAC

Courtesy Greg Yeoman/INAC

Saoyú-Ɂehdacho National Historic Site

Statement of Significance

Saoyú-Ɂehdacho National Historic Site of Canada, also known as Saoyú-Ɂehdacho (pronounced saw-you–eh-da-cho), is a large cultural landscape made up of two peninsulas, located south of the tree line in the Northwest Territories. The two peninsulas,  Saoyú and Ɂehdacho, reach into Great Bear Lake from the west and south. Both landscapes rise gradually over a number of kilometres to broad, relatively flat summits covered with open boreal forest. Official recognition refers to the two peninsulas, an area of 5,565 square km, and their associated features and buildings.

Saoyú-ɂehdacho was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1997 because:

  • its cultural values, expressed through the interrelationship between the landscape, oral histories, graves and cultural resources, such as trails and cabins, help to explain and contribute to an understanding of the origin, spiritual values, lifestyle and land-use of the Sahtu Dene.

Its heritage value lies in the cultural landscape as a whole, its environmental quality, which allows traditional lifestyle and land use activities, and the cultural values of the Sahtu Dene expressed through the inter-relationship between landscape, oral history, graves and cultural resources. These are outstanding landscapes that blend the natural and spiritual worlds of the Sahtu Dene and help define them as a people. The extensive oral tradition brings the history of the Sahtu Dene alive and signifies the importance of these sacred lands to them and to the heritage of Canada.

Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:

  • the location on the shoreline of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories;
  • the completeness of the cultural landscape as an integrated whole over all time, and in particular:
  • the high standard of environmental quality and biodiversity evident in the natural landforms, flora and fauna;
  • the absence of industrial development;
  • the specific sacred sites and places of significance and, in particular, the list of such places currently maintained and supplemented by the Sahtu Dene;
  • the places at which specific stories are told, including traditional hunting, trapping, fishing, plant harvesting and camping sites, portages and trails;
  • any tent rings, teepee poles, cabin sites in their found forms, extent materials and location;
  • any implements and tools including ruined fish traps in their found forms, materials and locations;
  • any grave sites associated with specific places in their found forms and materials;
  • the portages and trails in their found forms and locations;
  • any archaeological sites in their found forms, locations and materials including evidence of the cultural practices of the Sahtu Dene and the relationship with Saoyú-Ɂehdacho.

Quoted from Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1996; Commemorative Integrity Statement.

Supporting documents can be obtained from the National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec.