The Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation has cancelled this year's annual spiritual gathering at Old Fort Reliance because of forest fires in the area.

They made the decision at a community meeting last week.

Agatha Laboucan is senior administrative officer for The Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation.

"The elders felt that there would be a health risk to elders and the children in the community from the smoke. Also, not having  a nurse out there this year was a huge impact for the community members."

Laboucan says nurses from the community have been on duty at the gathering in the past, but because of a change in policy the government was not going to provide one this year.

Old Fort Reliance is a historic site at the Lockhart River in the eastern end of Great Slave Lake. The site was first used as a winter camp by George Back in 1833 during his Arctic Land Expedition. Today all that remains are the chimneys, storage pits and the outlines of log buildings in the earth, according to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre's entry on the site.

Firefighters managed to save the site when fires recently approached, but smoke from nearby fires continues to cloud the area.

About 200 forest fires continue to burn across the Northwest Territories.