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On the western shore of Great Bear Lake stands Délı̨nę, a community of roughly 500 with a traditional name that translates to “where the waters flow.” In fact, it’s the only community on the shores of the massive Great Bear Lake, the largest lake located entirely in Canada.
Fur traders established posts in this area as early as 1799. Délı̨nę also served as the winter quarters for Sir John Franklin’s second Arctic expedition in 1825. According to his diaries, Franklin’s men would spend their leisure time playing games on the ice with skates and sticks similar to modern day hockey. For this reason, Délı̨nę is known as the birthplace of ice hockey.
It wasn’t until 1949 that a permanent community formed here with the opening of a mission and school. Now, Délı̨nę is a major destination for Sahtu visitors. Cast a line into Great Bear Lake and you could find yourself the new world record holder for the largest Lake Trout ever caught on a rod and reel. The official record is a 72-pound beast pulled from this very lake in 1991. And it’s entirely possible that record-breaking trout is still swimming around the chilly waters of Great Bear Lake, getting even bigger.
Near Délı̨nę you'll also find Saoyú-ʔehdacho National Historic Site. Made up of two peninsulas on Great Bear Lake, Saoyú-ʔehdacho is the largest National Historic Site in Canada and is jointly administered by Parks Canada and the Délı̨nę Got’ine Government. The peninsulas are sacred, spiritual places and are very important to the Sahtugot'ine (“the people of the Sahtu”). It's through this land, and the stories that surround it, that Elders in Délı̨nę pass on the history, laws, values and skills critical to their way of life.
Délı̨nę can be easily reached with flights from Yellowknife or Norman Wells, or by the winter road from Wrigley via Tulita.