Łutsel K’e, or “Place of the cisco fish,” is the only settlement on Great Slave Lake’s storied (and beautiful) East Arm – site of the new Thaidene Nene National Park. This scenic community of about 300 Dënesųłiné, or Chipewyan Dene, is accessible only by air, boat or snowmobile.
Marked by soaring red cliffs and seemingly unlimited Lake Trout, the breathtaking scenery around Łutsel K’e is bristling with dramatic landscapes and primeval wilderness. Ancient cliffs drop 180 metres straight down into the deep, cold waters of Great Slave Lake. It’s an ideal spot to launch bucket list-level angling and paddling trips in Christie and McLeod Bays, and over Pike’s Portage into the muskox- and caribou-rich Barrenlands.
Formerly known as Snowdrift (for the Snowdrift River), Łutsel K’e was established with a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post in 1925, followed by a Roman Catholic church. It returned to its traditional name in 1992 to better reflect the generations of Dene who have paddled these waters, roamed these ridges and camped in these bays. Evidence of their enduring habitation is everywhere you look, from the numerous arrowheads shimmering on the shores of Artillery Lake to the old cabins and graves at the abandoned village site of Kaché.
As such, Łutsel K’e remains proudly traditional, with the Chipewyan language widely spoken and traditional hunting, trapping and fishing serving as the economic mainstay. It has been home to several famous Northerners, including celebrated painter John Rombough and revered priest, historian and activist René Fumoleau. It’s also the home of the new Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve. Meaning “Land of the Ancestors,” this 14,000-square kilometre protected area houses diverse ecosystems, important wildlife and pristine watersheds. Thaidene Nene is managed and protected by the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, and the Deninu Kųę́ First Nation who live on these lands.
Although not accessible by road, Łutsel K’e is only a 45-minute flight from Yellowknife. Scheduled flights go between the community and Yellowknife at least once per day, every day of the week. An annual sealift is provided by the territorial government’s ships from Hay River in the summer.