Skip to main content

Find out more about the current wildfire and wildfire-related concerns in the NWT.

Home Story Check out the colourful, soulful churches of the Northwest Territories

The colourful, soulful churches of the Northwest Territories

Whatever your spiritual persuasion, you’ll love the ornate little churches of the Northwest Territories. Every community has at least one – Anglican, Catholic, or otherwise. Often, they’re the most historic structures in town, some dating back to the mid-1800s, before Canada even became a country. Often, too, they are architectural marvels: There’s the famous domed “Igloo Church” in Inuvik, the log-cabin Our Lady of the Snows Church in Colville Lake, and the stately cathedral in Fort Smith. In many cases, local artists have decorated them with beautiful Indigenous designs. You’ll usually find them open to the public – so doff your cap and check them out. 

Inuvik

Technically, it’s Our Lady of Victory Catholic Parish – but everyone in the North calls it the Igloo Church. Located on Inuvik‘s main drag just south of downtown, this landmark is a bleach-white cylinder capped by a silvery dome, imitating the Inuvialuit snow-houses of old. It opened its pews to worshippers in 1960. The interior is decorated with the paintings of famous Inuvialuit artist Mona Thrasher. We’re willing to bet it’s the most photographed building in the Northwest Territories. 

Tulita

The Church of St. Theresa of Avila hosts worshippers not far from the banks of the Mackenzie River in Tulita. It’s not the only noteworthy place of worship in this central Sahtu community. The Old Anglican Church – a single-story log building with a gable roof and wooden steeple – is a territorially designated historic site dating from 1880.

Fort Good Hope

Our Lady of Good Hope Church is the oldest and certainly the most ornate place of worship in the North. This tiny cathedral crowns a bluff overlooking the Mackenzie River in Fort Good Hope. Built starting in 1865 by Oblate missionaries – including the famed Father Émile Petitot –­ the church from the outside is whitewashed, steep-roofed, plain and stately. The inside, however, glows with elaborate frescoes: The vaulted ceiling depicts a Northern winter’s night sky while Christian imagery is intermixed with depictions of local plants and wildlife. Today, though a National Historic Site, it still hosts regular services.

Tsiigehtchic

Perched on the appropriately named Church Hill, the Church of the Holy Name of Mary occupies pride of place overlooking the confluence of the Mackenzie and Arctic Red Rivers in Tsiigehtchic. The older, larger church in the background dates from the 1920s and nowadays is seldom used. 

Colville Lake

Hand-built in 1962 by Colville Lake’s founder, the late Oblate priest, artist and bush-pilot Bern Will Brown, Our Lady of the Snows Catholic mission drew K’ahsho Got’ine hunters and trappers back to the area from Fort Good Hope. At first, the church doubled as a doctor’s and dentist’s office, with Brown serving in both professions. Drum dances, treaty discussions and all manner of other community events have been held here as well.   

Délįne

Though not a church, this is the spiritual heart of Délįne. It’s the lakefront log cabin of the community’s revered visionary, the late Ehtseo (Grandfather) Louie Ayah. Often called “the Prophet,” Ayah was said to have forseen the discovery of diamonds in the Northwest Territories, the utilization of uranium from Great Bear Lake in World War II’s infamous Manhattan Project, and the political rejuvenation of the Sahtudene with the advent of self-government – not to mention the end of the world. 

Fort Simpson

St. David’s Church in Fort Simpson was built from a kit that was brought to the community by sternwheeler during the Great Depression. Its first service was Christmas Day, 1930, making it more than 85 years old. Its pews and pulpit, however, are far older – they were salvaged from a preceding church, built in 1862. 

Fort Smith

St. Joseph’s Cathedral towers over downtown Fort Smith, its grandeur harkening back to the days when this community was the religious and administrative centre of the Northwest Territories. A somewhat eerie fact: Interred in a crypt in the church’s basement are four bishops, including Bishop Joseph Trocellier, the bishop at the time the cathedral was built.

Fort McPherson

Perched at the crest of Fort McPherson’s sandy hill, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church is unmissable, its silver spire glinting in the midnight sun. The present church is approximately a half-century old, having replaced the original log St. Matthew’s Church, which opened in the community in 1860. Plaques inside commemorate the Whittaker family of missionaries; outside, in the churchyard, you’ll find the graves of the tragic ‘Lost Patrol‘ – four Mounties who died while on a sled-dog journey to Dawson City during the bitterly cold winter of 1910-11. 

Tundra North Travel is an Inuit company based in Inuvik, Northwest Territories that was established with the dream of being......

Your Dene Connection in Yellowknife. B. Dene Adventures is a Traditional Dene Culture Camp business which teaches the Dene way......

Best Northern Road Trip! Now you can drive all the way to the Arctic ocean linking Canada from coast to......

100% Indigenous owned!  We are the world’s first Aurora Hunting tour company, we know Aurora. Learn about Aurora, why Yellowknife is the......

Etching popular northern designs on unique 100% recycled glass, since 1994. Visit our gift shop in Old Town or come......

We offer winter clothing rentals. Our winter clothing will keep you warm and comfortable for your outdoor fun – ask us......

Northern and Remote Wilderness Adventures Ltd. (NARWAL) is a small, friendly, majority Aboriginal owned and operated family business. Our reputation......

We are a small business, owned and operated by a northern Indigenous family, catering largely to visiting families and friends,......

Our vision is to see the Beaufort-Delta Region of Canada’s western arctic become the dream destination for motorcycle adventure enthusiasts from......

To truly experience the Northwest Territories, take your camping gear for a highway driving adventure! Long ribbons of road without......

Inuvik is located 200km North of the Arctic Circle, on the East Cannel of the incredible ecosystem that is the Mackenzie Delta. We are located within the Taiga Forest just south of the treeline and Arctic Tundra. Inuvik acts as the gateway to the Western Arctic as the Mackenzie River, Dempster Highway and Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway […]...

Explore the wild splendor of the northern boreal plains, where whooping cranes call and bison roam free. Visitor reception centres......

The Deh Cho Travel Connection is a driving route that extends just over 1,800 kilometres from “Mile Zero” of the......

Up-to-date information about road conditions, ferry operations and ice bridges, as well as flight information, travel tips and links to......