Spiritual, Not Religious; Dene, Not Indigenous: Tłı̨chǫ Dene Discourses of Religion and Indigeneity

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Department 1

Religious Studies


During a particularly long late-winter cold snap in the Northwest Territories, Canada, with daily temperatures reaching -35 degrees Fahrenheit, I witnessed a Tłı̨chǫ Dene man take a bucket of ash from his wood stove, walk down a snowmobile track to the frozen lake behind his home, and pour the ash into a neat pile on the ice. He explained to me that a deceased relative, a medicine man, taught him that doing this while asking the Creator for warmer weather would thaw the ice and hasten a warm front. I asked an elder with whom I had been spending time how ash on the lake would affect the weather, thinking I had stumbled upon a glimpse into pre-contact Dene religion. (excerpt)


Originally published in The Brill Handbook of Indigenous Religion(s)

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