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5 Things Not To Miss At NAKA Festival

Green and purple Aurora over Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife

5 Things Not To Miss at NAKA Festival 

The Naka Festival takes place in Yellowknife and the nearby Yellowknives Dene First Nation community of Dettah from March 2 to 7, 2020. 

Featuring an exciting array of cultural showcases—from Dene storytelling and Arctic sports demonstrations to Northern fine-dining and an Indigenous fashion show and arts gala—the festival is a great opportunity to learn more about the NWT’s First Nations cultures.

Discover the science and Northern stories behind the Aurora—Naka (pronounced “nah-kah”) is the local Wiiliideh word for the Northern Lights, after all.

Here are five things you won’t want to miss at the Naka Festival.

A group of young Yellowknives Denen First Nation people gather for a meal in a wall tent.

The Dene constellations

You will never look at the night sky the same way again.

Attend a Northern Dene Astronomical Knowledge talk at the museum in Yellowknife to listen to Fred Sangris, a Yellowknives Dene First Nation historian, share traditional stories behind local Dene constellations. Chris Cannon, a PhD student who has travelled extensively across the North for the past decade, will join Sangris to share what he has learned from Dene knowledge-bearers across Alaska and Canada’s North.

Later, take the six-kilometre ice road across Yellowknife Bay to the community of Dettah, where Cannon will point out constellations from many Northern peoples.

When/where: The talks start at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. The sky-watching event begins at the Community Wellness Centre in Dettah on Friday at 7 p.m.

The local catch is served up for guests to enjoy.

Taste of the North

Foodies, circle this event on your calendar.

Northern harvesters and chefs come together at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre for a culinary event that promises to stimulate both your mind and your taste buds. 

Local harvesters will discuss their craft and what goes into sealing, birch-syrup making, trapping and fishing in the North. Then, four local chefs, including Yellowknife’s Flavour Trader Étienne Croteau, will collaborate on “Taste of the North,” a culinary taster menu inspired by the bounty provided by these lands. This feast, featuring 16 bite-sized creations, will serve up both traditional country foods and contemporary twists on Northern favourites.

Tickets are $60 and on sale now: https://www.flavourtrader.com/event

When/where: Taste of the North will be held at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre’s upstairs café on Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m.

Aurora over the winter landscape

Métis Day

Watch traditional sash-making and learn all about Métis culture and history during the Naka Festival’s Métis Day, held at the museum and organized by the North Slave Métis Alliance. There will be fiddling and jigging—and participants who are lifted to their feet by the infectious rhythms are encouraged to jump in to give the lively dance a try.

When/where: Métis Day takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife on Wednesday, March 4.

Dene Games

Fun and games

Strength, balance, stamina, agility and (sometimes) a high pain-threshold play a part in Dene and Inuit games. Be wowed by high kicks, the stick pull, and the airplane at an Arctic games demonstration at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre—before trying them out for yourself. Learn why these games have always been important to Northern hunters, who use them to build the skills required to harvest game on the land.

Plus, browse the NWT Arts Market all day from Tuesday to Thursday downtown to purchase handmade arts, crafts, clothing and jewellery created by local artists. This market, held in downtown Yellowknife, will also host live musical performances and film screenings.

When/where: The Dene and Inuit games demonstrations will take place at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 5. The NWT Arts Market will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from March 3 to 5, in the upper level of the Centre Square Mall in downtown Yellowknife.

Dene beading work

Indigenous Cultural Gala

The best and brightest in local fashion will shine at the Indigenous Cultural Gala in Dettah.

The Naka Festival caps off with a fashion show at the Chief Drygeese Centre highlighting the stunning clothing, accessories and jewellery created by innovative local Indigenous designers. The evening will also include live music performances from some the NWT’s most prominent artists.

And should an item on the catwalk catch your eye, you may have the chance to purchase it from the Yellowknives Dene Artisan Shop, located in the Chief Drygeese Centre.

Tickets are $30 and available at Erasmus Apparel, the Yellowknives Dene Artisan Shop and the Ever Good Stuff Thrift Shop.

When/where: The Indigenous Cultural Gala will be held at the Chief Drygreese Centre in Dettah, from 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturday March 7.


(For a full listing of scheduled events, and to purchase tickets for the Indigenous Cultural Gala and Taste of the North events, visit the Naka Festival website: https://www.yellowknife.ca/en/NAKA.asp)

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