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Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada

Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, X0E, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2002/06/19

Aerial view of the Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada, showing the Papal Grounds.; Culture and Communications, Government of the Northwest Territories, A Promise Fulfilled: The Visit of Pope John Paul II (Yellowknife: Government of the Northwest Territories, 1989), 59.
Aerial view
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Other Name(s)

Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1984/01/01 to 1987/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/07/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada is the traditional Dene meeting place on the flats at the southwestern end of Fort Simpson Island that contains facilities built for the 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II.

Heritage Value

Ehdaa was designated a national historic site because:
- it is a traditional gathering site for the Dene,
- during the pre-contact period, the Dene gathered here during their seasonal rounds to allocate land use, arrange marriages, resolve disputes through the Council of the Elders, hold puberty rites, undertake ceremonies of healing and thanksgiving, and trade goods, knowledge and technique,
- from the fur trade period through to the signing of Treaty 11 in 1921 and Pope John Paul II's visit in 1987, the site remains important to the Liidlii Kue Dene who renew their ongoing connection to the place with seasonal celebrations at the Drum Circle.

The heritage value of Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada is reflected in the landscape features that support its traditional role as a seasonal gathering place for the Liidlii Kue Dene, including its easily reached central location and relics of Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit which represent a recent use of the site in its traditional role that is significant in repairing the wholeness of Dene culture and its history.

Source: HSMBC Minutes, November 2001.

Character-Defining Elements

Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:

- the central location of the site on an island in the Mackenzie River near its confluence with the Liard River,
- the morphology of the site as a large flat area,
- evidence of traditional seasonal gatherings during the pre-contact to 1921 periods such as tipi rings, fire rings, middens, and drum circles,
- archaeological vestiges of facilities used to allocate land use, arrange marriages, resolve disputes, hold puberty rites, undertake ceremonies, and trade goods, knowledge and techniques,
- the location, forms, materials and other remnants of the Papal Grounds including the Papal Drum Circle and Papal Tipi Ring.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1921/01/01 to 1921/01/01
1987/01/01 to 1987/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality
Peopling the Land
People and the Environment
Building Social and Community Life
Education and Social Well-Being
Peopling the Land
Canada's Earliest Inhabitants

Function - Category and Type


Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Aboriginal Ritual Site


Treaty-Making Site

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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