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The sacred tree was carried to its new site on a flatbed truck, provided by the Det’on Cho Corporation. (John Last/CBC) Dene held a ceremony at the Yellowknife River on Tuesday to move a sacred tree that fell during a windstorm this summer to a cultural site.

They held a fire, said prayers and told stories about the tree, which used to stand at the river, and held spiritual significance to the N.W.T.’s Dene.

The tree is part of the Dene legend of Yamozha, who’s believed to have travelled the territory 8,000 years ago. It was a regular site of offerings before it fell in August. Kateri Lynn, 18, helped organize the move on Tuesday. (John Last/CBC) Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief Edward Sangris was at the site Tuesday, where the tree was lifted onto a crane and moved to the Williideh cultural site, across from the Yellowknife River Territorial Park.

"That’s significant because our people have gathered there since time immemorial," he said.

"They converse here, live together here, have drum dances, hand games. This is a gathering place."

It was moved in a bid to "keep it safe," said a notice from the First Nation. Children, elders, and other community members attended the ceremony and took loose branches of the sacred tree as keepsakes.

Community members also tidied the bed of the truck, placing fallen branches near the tree in its new location. The tree, weighing almost 3,000 kg, is lowered into its new location at the Yellowknives Dene Williideh site. (John Last/CBC) "It was pretty awesome. It’s a way of showing how our culture and our tradition works," Sangris said.

"To show the respect and that knowledge that comes with the tree. It’s quite significant for the Yellowknife Dene."

Kateri Lynn, 18, works with lands and environment for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. She organized much of the ceremony, gathering students, chiefs and community members to volunteer their time. Det’on Cho Corporation, the economic development arm of the First Nation, also offered the use of the crane for free.

"We’re all just doing this as a community together," she said. Community members tidied the bed of the truck, placing fallen branches near where the tree lay in its new location. (John Last/CBC) Lynn said it’s great to get youth out and involved in community projects, saying it keeps them out of trouble and away from drugs and alcohol.

"Everyone is so caught up… they forget how it was back in the day," she said.

"Youth need to be more aware of what’s happening in the community and take part for them to actually feel like they’re a part of the community and feel like they have a purpose." Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief Edward Sangris says he believes the tree still has spiritual powers. (Kirsten Fenn/CBC) Sangris said the tree protected the Yellowknife people for thousands of years. But even though the tree is dead, he said its spirit is still alive.

"Our elders, before they pass on, they always say ‘if you need help, I’m here to help you.’ They help us through their spirituality even when they’re not here.

"I think the tree is down, but the spirit of the tree is still living."

With files from John Last

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