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Naka Festival: A celebration of Aurora and culture in Canada’s Northwest Territories

Aurora über einer Eisstraße
Aurora over an ice road - Credit: Tashina Weagle

There’s a new light in Yellowknife’s winter festival scene and it’s shining as brightly as the Aurora.

Naka, pronounced “nah-kah”, is the word for the Northern lights in the local Wiiliideh language of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. The festival is a celebration of all things Aurora and features local First Nation activities, food, games, drumming, and dancing. The festival winds up the week of celebration in the community of Dettah at the Chief Drygeese Centre with an Indigenous fashion show Gala in March.


The Naka Festival first came about through a partnership between the City of Yellowknife and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Showcasing Indigenous culture hand-in-hand with Aurora has meant that in two short years the festival has grown to having events in four different locations and features a variety of different cultural activities. This year it will feature the Yellowknives Dene First Nation history, culture and fashion and in addition there will be an afternoon of Métis sash-making, fiddling and jigging demonstrations provided by the North Slave Métis.

Naka-Artmarket - Credit: Sarah Pruys

The Tlicho First Nation will also share their traditional stories through film screenings each day. And the Aboriginal Sport Circle will be holding a demonstration of traditional Dene and Inuit games where participation is encouraged. Be sure to try out games like the stick pull, the airplane, and the one-foot high-kick. A researcher will present on Northern Dene Astronomical Knowledge, as well as an evening Northern Dene Star Gazing workshop.

Indigenous strick pulling game - Credit: Northwest Territories Tourism & Ben Weiland

The festival also brings together some of the best chefs in Yellowknife for an evening event called “Taste of the North” where you’ll have a chance to sample traditional Indigenous food with a modern touch. The week will wind up with a truly spectacular Gala Fashion Show featuring local Indigenous designers and artists, and a chance to win a trip for two to Frontier Lodge, the newest Indigenous-owned fishing lodge in the Northwest Territories.

With a unique combination of food, dancing, science, arts, and stories, the Naka Festival has something for everyone. Let it be your springboard to learning about Indigenous cultures in the Northwest Territories and all things Aurora!



Further information on the Northwest Territories can be found at


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