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.
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.
In 2004, the Fort Simpson Historical Society successfully undertook to have this site recognized as a historic site by the Fort Simpson Heritage Bylaw, and it’s registry with Canada’s Historic Places.
In 2016, the Liidlii Kue First Nation undertook to upgrade the original teepee used during Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit. They contacted the television show Timber Kings to construct the world’s largest wooden teepee on the original site of the first teepee. The Timber King’s constructed the teepee on the Ehdaa National Historic Site where it is being actively used as a gathering point for ceremonies, weddings, and other community activities.
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.