Deline, with a population of just over 500, is a Dene community on the western shore of Great Bear Lake. In fact, it's the only community on the shores of Great Bear Lake, the largest lake entirely in Canada. Formerly known as "Fort Franklin," Deline served as the winter quarters for Sir John Franklin's second Arctic expedition, and according to his diaries, his men were known to take up a game on the ice that sounds strikingly similar to hockey. For this reason, Deline is considered one of the birthplaces of ice hockey. In 1993, Deline reclaimed its traditional name which translates to "Where the Waters Flow," in reference to the headwaters of Great Bear River. Here's how to experience the wonder of this traditional Sahtu community.
Grey Goose Lodge will be your base for all activities in Deline. At this beautiful, community-owned lodge, you'll have a comfy place to stay as well as hearty meals to fuel your adventures. You’ll also find knowledgeable staff to help you decide which activities to do while in town.
Great Bear Lake is one of the biggest lakes in the whole world. And with a big lake comes big fish. The biggest, in fact. The world record for largest Lake Trout caught on a rod and reel is 72 lbs. Lloyd Bull pulled that Laker out of Great Bear in 1991. Can you beat that? In addition to Lake Trout, you'll also find feisty little Arctic Grayling leaping clear out of the water.
Louis Ayah (1857-1940) was a Dene prophet and spiritual leader from Deline. He shared over 30 prophecies including the discovery of diamonds in the Northwest Territories and the appearance of three polar bears in Deline. Visit his grave and the shrine built to him and ask the locals about all that he foretold.
One of the best ways to learn about a new area is to explore it on foot. Ask around at the lodge for recommendations on hiking opportunities to discover the beauty of this community.
Book a cultural experience through Grey Goose Lodge and have the chance to meet with Dene elders. You’ll learn about the meaning of the traditional place names in the area, and hear the stories of the Dene history and culture. See traditional Dene beadwork, and learn how to tan a caribou hide. Walk with an elder along the trails and learn about the medicines they derive from the plants around them.
If you're lucky enough to be in town for one of Deline's hand games tournaments, you’re in for a unique cultural experience. Hand games are an elaborate guessing game where a player on one team hides a small object in their hand and the other team has to guess which hand it is in. Players move their hands around, sometimes behind their backs or under blankets to cause confusion. There is also singing and drumming to add to the excitement. Correct guesses earn sticks and the team with the most sticks at the end of the game wins. Traditionally, hunting parties would play hand games and would bet items like weapons, tools and furs.
Saoyú and Ɂehdacho are two peninsulas on Great Bear Lake and, combined, make up the largest National Historic Site in Canada. These 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 pass on the history, laws, values and skills that are critical to their way of life. Every summer, Deline residents gather in Saoyú-Ɂehdacho and practice on-the-land skills. Learn their stories and you'll start to get a sense of the spirit of Deline and Great Bear Lake.