- Town Hall
Behchoko is the largest Dene community in the Northwest Territories. The Tlicho people, previously known as the Dogrib, have lived in the area for centuries, living in small family groups and pursuing caribou and other game. The region has a turbulent past, with oppression and conflict with the Yellowknife Chipewyans beginning in the late 1700s. Chief Edzo and Chief Akaitcho, chiefs of the Tlicho and Yellowknives groups, respectively, made peace in the mid-1800s. The inland section of Bechoko bears the name Edzo after the prominent chief.
In 1852 Dr. John Rae, an early explorer known for adapting to the lifestyle of indigenous groups, set up a Hudson’s Bay Company post about 8 kilometres away from the present site. Settlement quickly developed in the area, but alcohol and diseases such as tuberculosis and measles had a devastating effect on the community. The settlement was moved to the present site around 1900. In 1921, the people of the community, led by Chief Monfwi, accepted Treaty 11, but less than a decade earlier residents began to claim that their understanding of the Treaty was not the same as the government’s. Over the next few decades, the community grew and modernized. Electricity was implemented in 1959, and modern medical and other facilities became available nearby, in Yellowknife.
The access road to the Mackenzie Highway was built in 1960, opening the community up to road traffic and making the region much more accessible. Because of poor drainage at the Rae site, a secondary site called Edzo was developed about 24 kilometres inland. In spite of its better drainage and sanitation, most members of the community chose to stay at the Rae site because of its better access for fishing and hunting. The two communities grew side by side and came to be known as Rae-Edzo, and were incorporated as a hamlet on April 1, 1971.
Land claim negotiations were an ongoing struggle for the community throughout the late 20th century. However, in August 2003, an historic Tlicho Self-Government and Land Claims agreement was signed in Behchoko in the presence of then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien. The Agreement is a modern treaty with the Government of Canada, and the first combined comprehensive land claim and self-government agreement ever. The agreement determines and defines rights relating to land, resources and self-government. It created a Tlicho Government that governs 39,000km2 of land between Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes, the Tlicho traditional territory. It also established land and water and renewable resource boards and guarantees the Tlicho people will receive a share of mineral royalties from the region.
On August 4 2005, the community of Rae-Edzo’s name was officially changed to Behchoko, meaning “Mbehcho’s place”.