For over 100 years the caribou skin lodge, or teepee of Tlicho trading Chief K’aàwidaà was stored away in a museum out of public sight in Iowa. In 1996 John B. Zoe and NWT archeologist Dr. Tom Andrews reached out to long time anthropologist Dr. June Helm about repatriating Tlicho artifacts to Denendeh.
Helm was one of the first to closely study the Dene and Tlicho, writing books entitled “Power and Prophecy of the Dogrib Indians,” and “The people of Denendeh.”
She informed Andrews about the lodge, and volunteered to help bring it back to Tłı̨chǫ Ndhe.
Shortly after a series of phone calls, Dr. Andrews said he and elder Elizabeth Mackenzie, and her daughter Mary Siemens travelled to see the lodge in the US. A few short year later in 1998 the Caribou Skin Lodge that purchased from Bear Lake Chief in 1893 by Frank Russell returned to the NWT.
This helped launch the Tłı̨chǫ Ekwǫ̀ Nı̨hmbàa/Tlicho Caribou Skin Lodge project.
John B. Zoe was part of a full capacity crowd who came to hear Dr. Andrews lecture on the history of the Caribou Lodge, and a historical look back at the American adventurist Charles Russel who bought the teepee, a birch bark canoe, and a dog team and toboggan from the “Bear Lake Chief,” K’aàwidaà.
“It’s still amazing to see, and to smell the smoke of camp fires from years ago. The teepee rings from this actual teepee are still out there on the land,” explained Zoe.
Family Tree of K’aàwidaà