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3. The Dene tepee village 1862

Dene/Chipewyan tepee at Portage La Loche and Crean Expedition members taken by the Frank Crean Expedition in 1908(coloured version)

The Dene tepee village at the Portage in 1862

The Dene tent village of 150 people at the Portage as described by Father Petitot

"The tents were made of smoked skins, conical like those of the *Lapps. On the bare earthen floor a few pine
branches were placed around a small fire. In a corner there was a pile of old clothes. Here and there were a few 
European made utensils. Around the lodge were skinny hungry dogs. 
There were no curious hunting implements, no native decorations, not a single hint of savagery. 
A civilized people but indigenous, bohemian and always nomadic. 
Everything was decent and chaste. " (translation) ........."En route pour la mer Glaciale" by Father Emile Petitot

Tepee chapel 1862

"These people though they see a priest only once a year keep within their hearts a great piety. Every day they recite their rosary and 
sing their hymns. In all their lodges they have prayer books and objects of devotion. Since we would be here several days
we hurried to raise a chapel. It was made of seven or eight long poles and oars from the boats. Beautiful hangings were hung
from the apex. Our blankets and tarps went on the floor. It was in this improvised chapel that we
sung High Mass and our best hymns. Last Sunday there were united in front of our little chapel more than 250 people.
The same thing awaits us at the other end of the Portage." Petitot  (translation) 

"We stayed at this mission, R.P. Grouard and myself until the departure of the Mackenzie brigade, that is twelve days.
I took advantage of the time to raise a conical chapel which I covered with white covers and coloured decorations.
An altar surrounded in white cloth stood the whole time we were there.
It was in this improvised little temple that I had the joy of singing High Mass on the Sunday after our arrival, and to
celebrate the holy mysteries each day in front of more than three hundred and fifty people, both metis and Indian." Petitot (translation)

Dene/Chipewyan tepees at La Loche on June 30-July 1, 1918 taken by the Kitto Expedition.
(coloured version)

The 1862 tent village of 150 visited by Petitot may have had 20 to 30 tents.

The Dene tent village near the Portage that Father Petitot described in 1862 were the people of Lac La Loche 
gathered there for the yearly brigades season to do trade or to find work portaging.

In a letter written in 1873 by R.P. Legeard to R.P. Martinet Father Legeard provides an explanation for their 
presence at the portage. (translation)

" The Dene, in good numbers, are mostly established around Lac La Loche and are starting some cultivating.
Because it is not easy to unite regularly for a mission during winter, the priest in charge comes every year
in July. At this time of year, the Dene, attracted by the brigades, camp altogether in tents, around the Portage or at the Portage itself."  Legeard (translation)     


Conical tents like the North American tipis have been used by nomadic people for at least 12,000 years. 
Father Petitot saw the Dene tipis of La Loche as resembling the conical tents of the Lapps in northern 
Scandinavia. These tents were gradually replaced by house-like tents.

On June 30, 1918 Franklin Kitto saw "row after row of tepees" at the mission gathering in the village of La Loche.
There may have been 30 to 40 tents set up for the 200 to 300 people that were there.
In the 'La Loche tepees' photo on the left taken by the Kitto Expedition we see five tepees and a building of the 
Revillon Post. The photo is from the following book by Franklin Kitto published in 1919. Kitto's book

View the research done on this photo on La Loche photo search.

The photos below of  tipis and  house tents were most likely taken during 'summer missions in La Loche circa 1940's. ( from SHSB)

Tepees in northern Europe

Lapps (Sami) are from northern Scandinavia.
Parts of northern Norway, Sweden and Finland are called Lapland. 
They also depended on the caribou (reindeer) for food and clothing and erected tents that 
to Father Petitot were similar to those of the Dene at Portage La Loche in 1862.