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Yellowknives Dene’s fallen sacred tree to get permanent home

Fred Sangris, left, conducts a ceremony at the base of the fallen Dene sacred tree on August 9, 2018
Fred Sangris, left, conducts a ceremony at the base of the fallen Dene sacred tree on August 9, 2018. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The Dene sacred tree which fell during Friday’s high winds will be given a permanent resting place at the nearby Yellowknives Dene Weledeh site, a former chief told Cabin Radio.

The First Nation maintains ceremonial lands by the Yellowknife River which, according to Elder and former Yellowknives Dene Chief Fred Sangris, will form the tree’s new home.

The tree, which stood to the left of the Ingraham Trail on the Yellowknife side of the bridge crossing the river, came down in winds gusting to 70 km/h on Friday.

“This tree has been here for thousands of years,” Sangris told Cabin Radio as he inspected the remaining stump on Friday evening.



“In the beginning of time, a man named Yamozha chased a giant beaver amongst the river here. Yamozha put a snow shovel there and struck it into the ground, and left it there. Many, many years later, a tree started to grow there,” he said.

“This tree has been a special tree. When you paddled up with birchbark canoes in the old days, you had to stop here, talk to Grandfather, and ask for protection from harm. People came here with illnesses who needed help, and this tree was a giver, it helped a lot of people.

“That’s why the Elders said protect this tree, make sure it stands forever, but today it fell. To us, this is a very special day.”

Sangris said the First Nation would now move the downed trunk across the bridge to the Weledeh ceremonial site.



“We are going to carry him across to his resting place and keep him there for people to touch and to hold. It will remain with us,” said Sangris.

“It’s very sad to see it. I would have liked to see it stand till my grandchildren were grown up and could see it, but I know that tree was very old. It’s a windy day, too.

“I can see the trunk is rotten and the ants have been working on it. The tree has given up. It tried, but it has given up. But it’s OK.”