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Innovation, Community Engagement and Education

Geoheritage of the Great Salve Lake Shear Zone in the Łutsel K’e Dene First Nation Traditional Territory – Northwest Territories

Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - 16:30 to 19:00 Multiplex Gym (DND)

Author(s)

F. Stern (Presenting)
Simon Fraser University

L. King
Wildlife, Lands and Environment Department - Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation

F. Griffith
Consultant

Geoheritage is a descriptive term applied to areas of geologic features with significant scientific, educational, cultural, or aesthetic value. Culturally significant geoheritage sites are places where geologic features played a role in cultural or historical events.

The Great Slave Shear Zone (also known as McDonald Fault or Tthe Lare´ in Dene Yati language) is a world-class scenic and geological wonder. It extends for more than 400 kilometers along the East Arm of the Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories and has been proposed as a continental transform fault which accommodated eastward motion of the Slave Craton as it impacted the western margin of the Churchill Province during the Lower Proterozoic.

Spectacular cliffs drop 100 meters into the Lake, making it one of the most clearly visible faults on the earth's crust. The prominence of the shear zone has resulted in numerous landforms in the East Arm, including islands, rivers, lakes, rocks and waterfalls coming to be regarded as sacred sites of the Łutsel K’e Dene First Nation, thereby adding the necessary cultural dimension to its visually appealing geological landscape. For example, the eight-meter-high Parry Falls, on the Lockhart River (Tsa'kui Theda Deze´) at the east end of East Arm, is a sacred site. There, it is said that the Old Lady of the Falls (Tsa'kui Theda) can be found, a medicine woman who has healing powers and sits in the waterfall. Every summer, the people of Łutsel K’e host an annual spiritual gathering, paying their respects, healing, and making offerings.

Tsa'kui Theda and other sacred places on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake are part of the rich cultural history of the Łutsel K'e Dene First Nation, who consider the area to be the ‘heart of their homeland’. The sacred places and cultural significance of this region is greatly enhanced by the fascinating geology of the Great Slave Lake Shear Zone. The proposed Thaidene Nëné National Park and Reserve will serve an important function of protecting this geoheritage site for the future.