Łutsel K'e Dene celebrate 35 years of annual Spiritual Gathering

This year’s Desnedhe Che Spiritual Gathering at Old Fort Reliance, and near the spectacular Parry Falls, is expected to be the largest in years. 

'It's really important to the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation,' says Gloria Enzoe

Tsakui Theda, or Parry Falls. The Old Lady of the Falls is said to have special healing powers. (Lutsel K'e Kache Dene First Nation)

Community members in Łutsel K'e, N.W.T., are making their way to Old Fort Reliance this weekend for the 35th Desnedhe Che Spiritual Gathering, and it's expected to be the largest occurrence of the event in years. 

Gloria Enzoe is the gathering coordinator for the Lutsel K'e Kache Dene First Nation. She calls it a "migration" for the community of about 300. About 42 boats are heading to the gathering, and 73 people are joining a charter flight Friday. 

Fort Reliance lies near the mouth of the Lockhart River, in the eastern end of Great Slave Lake, and was once the hub of a small community. Enzoe's grandfather used to live there. 

Today, you can still find the remains of chimneys, storage pits and the outlines of log buildings in the earth, according to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre

Visitors to the gathering also make a trip to "Tsakui Theda," the Old Lady of the Falls, also known as Parry Falls, who is said to have special healing powers

"It's really important to the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation," Enzoe said. 

A scene from the Desnedhe Che Spiritual Gathering in 2021. (Kristen Kodakin-Yakeleya/Submitted by Stephanie Poole)

Enzoe herself grew up attending the event, and hearing the legends about big beavers and giants who populated the area. 

She said the gathering is about prayer, community and being together on the land. 

Last year, there was a baptism, a wedding, a spiritual hike and a water ceremony. 

She also said people taking part in the gathering can also expect "clear waters, beautiful fish, lots of berries." 

"The lady usually gifts us with an animal," she said. "Then we feast on the animal together." 

People are planning to return to Łutsel K'e on Aug. 13.

With files from Jared Monkman