Fort Simpson’s teepee, which stands in part to commemorate a papal visit more than 30 years ago, will be getting a facelift over the next few days.
The teepee was originally constructed in 1984 for a visit from Pope John Paul II, which was postponed until 1987 due to inclement weather.
In 2016, the entire teepee was replaced because the original wood was rotting and needed to be changed.
The structure, on Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ territory, will now have its outside wood layer stripped and a new colour added, according to Madison Pilling, the First Nation’s community tourism coordinator.
Pilling says the teepee is ripe for upgrades as prolonged sun exposure has diminished the colouring of the wood.
“It’s such a beautiful piece for people to take pictures with and show off, and it’ll be nice to have it looking all sparkly again,” she said.
Physically, the structure will remain the same. It will be stained “harvest gold,” which will be layered on the wood with several coats.
Pilling says the project was delayed due to Covid-19 because it was difficult to find contractors able to enter the territory, properly quarantine, and carry out the work.
Saleem Khan, owner and operator of Ocean Pacific Log Home Restorations, expects the work to take about three days.
His team will sandblast away the old finish as it may have decayed, stripping the teepee down to its bare wood.
Khan says since the teepee sits out in direct sunlight, exposure will continue to be a problem. Staining may need to happen at least every six to eight years.
Pilling says the First Nation received funding to fix up the site and staining the structure was a high priority.
A major gathering space for the local Dene people, the teepee is the largest wooden teepee in the world according to Pilling, standing at 17 metres high.
“We’re happy to get this work done and spruce it up and make it look all shiny and new again,” she said.