The Ehdaa Historical Site has been of great importance to the Dene for hundreds of years, and prior to the European contact was known as Kų́ę́ Gocho (big house). People would gather here after the long winter months, for spring celebrations and to strengthen relationship among the different families. The Flats (Ehdaa – a point in the river or a point of flat land) as this area is now called, is the site they occupied.
Homes could be found here until the early 1960’s. However, in 1963 the most severe spring flood on record caused this area to be completely submerged. Although damage was extensive, some homes were salvaged and relocated to higher ground.
The structures presently located here were built for the 1984 visit of Pope John Paul II. Unfortunately, fog prevented his plane from landing and the visit had to be postponed. On September 20, 1987, a crowd of 3,500 people gathered here to welcome the Pope to Fort Simpson.
The teepee is one of the traditional shelters of the Dene. The large Teepee was built in 1984 to serve as the shelter for the Pope’s celebration. Church services and celebrations are conducted in this area during the summer months. The Drum Circle marks the place where, from the beginning of time, the Dene gathered every summer to celebrate and to pray. It continues to be a focal point for the community’s summer events.
- Originally published by the Fort Simpson Historical Society, 2002.