Athabaskan/Chipewyan First Nations

Athabaskan Nations

Athapascan Languages


Athabaskan or Athabascan (also Dene, Athapascan, Athapaskan, Athabasca Indians or Athapaskes) is the name of a large group of closely related indigenous peoples of North America, located in two main Southern and Northern groups in western North America, and of their language family. The Athabaskan family is the second largest family in North America in terms of number of languages and the number of speakers, following the Uto-Aztecan family which extends into Mexico. In terms of territory, only the Algic language family covers a larger area.

The word Athabaskan is an anglicized version of the Woods Cree name for Lake Athabasca ([where] there are plants one after another) in Canada.

The text in this article excerpt is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Athabaskan languages.

The word Athapascan refers both to a people and to a group of related languages. The word itself does not come from any Athabaskan language; it is an anglicized version of the Cree Indian name for Lake Athabasca in Canada. Athabaskan languages are spoken throughout the interior of Alaska and the interior of northwestern Canada. There are Athabaskan people in northern California and southern Oregon. The Navajo and Apache people of the southwest speak Athabaskan languages, too.

Athabaskan Images


PH. 907-745-0505
FAX 907-745-0606

PH. 218-751-4967
FAX 218-751-0561

PH. 907-745-4482
FAX 907-745-0606

PH. 415-512-1501
FAX 415-512-1507


Athapaskan Music



Athabascan leaders

A group photograph taken during a break from the meeting
between Athabascan leaders and government officials on July 5, 1915,
shows, from left, Chief Alexander, of Tolovana; Chief William, of Tanana;
Chief Thomas, of Nenana; Paul Williams, of Tanana; Chief Ivan, of Crossjacket;
Chief Charlie, of Minto; and Chief Alexander William, of Tanana.


Athabaskan (Na-Dene) Language Family

In the past, this language family was simply known as the Athabaskan language family, which is the name recognized by most speakers of these languages (the spelling “Athabascan” is more preferred today, but both spellings are still commonly used, and “Athapaskan” can occasionally be seen as well.) But once it was discovered that non-Athabascan languages (like Tlingit, Eyak, and possibly Haida) were also related, linguists began using the new term Na-Dene to refer to the language family instead. The name Na-Dene was created by combining the word na, which means “people” in Tlingit and “home” in Haida, with the word dene, which means “people” in several Athabascan languages.

Alaskan Athabascans
Alaskan Links
Athabascan Links
Athabascans of Interior Alaska
Chipewyan Indian Culture and History
Chipewyan Indian Mythology
Chipewyan Women: Arctic Dawn

Chipewyan (chi-pah-way-en) is a Cree word describing their pointed hats or clothing. Dene (den-ay) or Dene suline are also used as names refering to Denendeh meaning “Spirit that flows through this land from the Creator”. They also refer to themselves as Ethen-eldeli, or caribou-eaters. Written history of the Chipewyan can be traced back to the establishment of trade with European fur settlers as far back as 1716, after establishing some peace with the Cree, who fought the Chipewyan for fur hunting territory.

The Chipewyan historically occupied the Manitoba Hudson Bay Area to the Slave River, but have spread throughout Canada for various reasons. The Chipewyan, or Denesuline, practice traditional survival techniques and traditions. These include hunting available game, tea dances, feasts, and so forth. The Denesuline are also well known for their artistic crafts made from animal hides and birch bark, as well as their talent for music and other arts.

The Chipewyan, or Denesuline, practice traditional survival techniques and traditions. These include hunting available game, tea dances, feasts, and so forth. The Denesuline are also well known for their artistic crafts made from animal hides and birch bark, as well as their talent for music and other arts. The Dene are estimated to have inhabited the Northwest territories since the Ice Age, because of oral histories referring to a time of only winter.

Denali Story

Fort Chipewyan Indian Band

Four Directions Institute

Tanacross Athabascan Language Resources

Tetlin As I Knew It

View of the Past


The Hero of the Dene

Dene Creation Story

Dene – Creation of Seasons

The first people of the earth had to endure winter for the entire twelve months of the year. Most of the land was covered by massive, moving layers of ice and deep snow. No trees or bushes, or flowers could survive in the harsh gripping cold. The lakes and rivers were frozen, so no water flowed. It was a land of endless cold. One day when the first people were out hunting they came upon a bear who had a sack around his neck. The hunters were very curious and asked the bear what was in the sack. The bear growled a reply that he had a sack filled with the abundance of summer’s warmth and light. The hunters wanted the sack and offered to trade, but the bear would not part with his sack. The hunters begged the bear, but still he refused to give up his sack. When they saw that it was useless to argue any longer, they decided to return to their people and think of some plan to take away the coveted sack. The chief heard the entire story and called his people together to arrive at a plan of how to take the sack away from the reluctant bear. They decided to lure the bear to a great feast, fill him with food, and when he slept, steal the sack. A tempting feast of moose and caribou was prepared.

The hunters searched for the bear and located him. They asked the bear to attend the feast in his honour and the bear readily accepted. The bear arrived in the evening, but did not have the sack around his neck. Although disappointed the people served the feast anyway. The bear ate his fill and fell asleep. The chief was frustrated and wanted the sack. He ordered four of the village’s skilled hunters to follow the bear home and steal the sack by any means. The next morning the bear awoke and bid the chief and his people farewell. The four hunters followed closely behind the bear for about an hour when they came upon a large cave. Peering inside, they spotted the sack laying upon the cave floor with two black bears guarding it. The hunters were very courageous and they sprang into the cave to demand the sack. A fierce fight killed three of the hunters and mortally wounded the fourth, but before he died, he grabbed the sack and unleashed the abundance of warmth and light. Instantly, the air became warm and the sky filled with bright sunlight. The snow melted into rivers and lakes. The hills and valleys were covered with trees, flowers and bushes. Strange birds flew in great numbers and built nests and streams filled with fish. Every year since that time, Summer has come to the Dene.

Bear and Squirrel
Boy Who Became Strong
Elders Speak
Monster Bird
Sa-Klu-Nazetti (The Sun Taken in a Snare)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s