Art, Heritage, Culture

Beautiful beaded moccasins. Indigenous hand games. Bush planes and daring pilots that opened the North. Colourful mining lore. Nationally recognized artists and entertainers. All part of the Yellowknife experience.

Historically, the north shore of Great Slave Lake was home to the Yellowknives and Tlicho Dene. Their descendants continue to live in the Yellowknife region, some in the adjoining communities of Dettah and N’dilo. Explorers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries recorded their visits to the Yellowknife area. First was Samuel Hearne in 1770, followed some 50 years later by Sir John Franklin on his epic journey to the Arctic Coast. Hearne’s meeting with the Dene took place in a bay near the Yellowknife River, just outside the current city of Yellowknife.

Yellowknife’s mining history started with the discovery of gold by prospectors enroute to the Klondike in 1898, but actual gold mining didn’t begin until the mid 1930s. This led to the establishment of a small community, which grew as a gold mining centre and was named capital of the Northwest Territories in 1967. Just as gold mining was declining in Yellowknife, diamonds were discovered several hundred miles north of the city and Yellowknife was transformed into the service centre for diamond mining.

Today, Yellowknife is a culturally rich city with dozens of nationally recognized artists, including musicians, carvers and painters and skilled craftspeople. Our residents come from nearly 100 different countries and their customs and cuisine are part of the city’s fabric.

Plaques around the city highlight Yellowknife’s early history, and our arts and crafts are readily available in local galleries. Tourism operators can walk you through our history, introduce you to the Dene culture, or guide you through galleries that highlight our home grown talents. The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre features fascinating exhibits on our culture and heritage, including the role of bush planes in opening the North.

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