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The Spirits of Yellowknife

Updated: Apr 4

By Major (Padre) Paul G Gemmiti


I recently returned to Winnipeg from a three-week tasking to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, in aid to the chaplain who is posted there. I got to visit people, meet with people, drive around and walk around and noticed much.


Yellowknife can be described as a large lake town or small city. If you have ever been to large towns of Muskoka Lakes or to Sudbury Ontario, you might perceive a similarity since the granite of the Canadian Shield continues there inclusive of many small lakes, ponds, and many trees.


The CAF military presence in Yellowknife is spread out, utilizing various locations and buildings, and is focussed upon Joint Task Force North operations which encompasses the Yukon, North West Territories, and Nunavut. The annual friendly Prospector Challenge occurred with pairs of military members caning, portaging and doing other physical feats, ending with a celebratory BBQ.


Yellowknife is essentially a well-kept place, with many amenities, residential areas, paved roads and services. It has locally known businesses as well as franchise businesses such as Tim Horton’s, Canadian Tire, and Mark’s (to name a few). My impression is that the community is multi-national and it reveals this in the variety of restaurants and those who work in many aspects of the economy.


The title of my article uses “spirits” because there seems to be a variety of spirits that coexist there. Of course the spirit of national defence and sovereignty is prevalent. The spirit of prospecting for gold and diamonds by major companies is there. The spirit of individual economic improvement is there. The spirit of liquor sales, friendly pubs, and community events is there. The spirit of appreciating the natural world is there, especially through advertising regular sightings of the Aurora Borealis in the night sky. (Not so much during the long days of summer sunlight and twilight.) The spirit of hunting, fishing, and boating is common.


The spirit of faith is also prevalent, with the presence of various Christian churches, Dene and Metis traditional events, and seemingly, some Islamic and Buddhist enclaves that have begun.


Last, but not least, is to mention Trapper’s Lake Spirituality Centre that is owned and operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. It is located just five minutes outside the town; access from the Highway 3 going into Yellowknife. It has various wooden log buildings and cottages, and has a main centre with rooms, essential services, a chapel, and meeting hall in the shape of a teepee. Covid-19 restrictions had played havoc with programming. The Centre is currently getting itself back into pastoral operations. The local and regional needs of faith education and personal spiritual development continues. While making a brief visit to the Centre, I happened to have a fortuitous chance to meet both the current Bishop and the Bishop who had established the Centre years ago.


As in many locations of Canada, various “spirits” continue to vie for the attention of folk and current young people. We hope and pray that the spirits of faith, reconciliation, and appreciation of all that we have and share will be amongst the chosen route of our future.





















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